If you are or ever have been plagued by consumer debt, I can almost guarantee expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. You know I'm right, and unless we do something to stop that pattern things are about to get much worse for you. Christmas is right around the corner.
The problem is procrastination. Face it: When it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you'll spend. The opposite is also true. The sooner you get started, the less you'll spend.
There are simple things you can do to stop procrastinating.
Get started. Do something to get moving. Once you are in motion, it will be easier to keep going.
Write it down. Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown and provides a realistic playing field. Set reasonable limits on time and money.
Work with the time you have. Make a simple timeline, then break the project down into small manageable parts. Five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.
Set a series of small deadlines. As an example, give yourself a date of one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadlines with someone who will keep you accountable.
Find the simpler way. To minimize the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify. Make room in your holiday plans for relaxation and enjoyment.
Be realistic. A big part of the problem is that the December holidays aren't just about gifts. There are decorations, holiday clothes, parties, trips, special concerts, plays, postage for cards and parcels, and, of course, all that food. The obvious solution is not to spend a lot of money on any of these things. Think about alternative ways to make the holidays a happy time.
Any time of the year is the best time of the year to start thinking about the most wonderful time of the year. The pressure is off, so you can think clearly. A stress-free Christmas is likely the very best gift you can give yourself and your family.
If you are really serious about an all-cash Christmas this year, you need specific ideas, tips, tricks and direction. No matter how much cash you have to spend Christmas (even if you're sure it's zip, nothing, nada), I can show you how you can still give gifts —wonderful gifts that cost nothing for you to give. It's all in my book "Debt-Proof Your Christmas," which is called "The Affordable Christmas" on Kindle.
This book is packed tighter than Santa's sleigh with everything I know about how to stay out of debt without sacrificing the joy of Christmas. Debt-free holidays are the best holidays of all! My publisher and I recently updated this book to make sure all resources and information are current.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.