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Holiday Heads-Up

It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I was a young bride browsing the shelves of a certain mega-bookstore in Fort Collins, Colorado. B.K. (before kids) my hubby and I would spend hours milling around the bookstore reading the dust covers, paging through table of contents, and rummaging in the bargain bin for our next read.

It was more his hobby than mine, but even then I loved to find a bargain! On one such outing, I stumbled on a book that would forever change my spending and my holidays. Debt Proof Your Holidays by Mary Hunt is just a little book, but it has big ideas that can change your entire outlook on the upcoming holiday season.

And if you're like me (I'm guessing many of you are), you're already thinking about Thanksgiving straight through to Christmas and dreaming about the things you'll give, what you'll cook, the parties you'll host, and the events you'll attend. The "problem" is it all costs money and it all takes time! And heaven knows that we do not have an unlimited budget for the holidays.

Have you even considered making yourself a budget? Ah-ha. Your answer tells a lot about you.

Living on a budget is a way of life for us. This one book was really a springboard for completely rethinking how we spend money day-in and day-out. In fact, you can find Mary Hunt's entire philosophy at her website: Debt Proof Living. There are many other great resources for staying on a budget and I'll plan on doing a piece about those in the new year. For now, I want to talk about ideas for keeping your next six weeks (YES IT'S ONLY SIX WEEKS!!) in the black.

I'm going to make this post a three part series. Please share comments along the way with resources and ideas of your own that will be helpful to others and a reminder to yourself that you can get through the holidays with less stress and less debt!

Today, let's reflect on the question that Ms. Hunt puts forth in her holiday book: what do you value and how will your Christmas celebrations reflect those values?

What is most important to you and your family? What brings you the most joy? What do you wish you had or had not done last Christmas? How do you want to feel on January 1, 2012?

Here are some thoughts to get you moving. I highly recommend starting to write your thoughts out journal-style and read them as you move through the coming weeks.

Do you love cooking and baking? Is it important to you to send Christmas cards and/or a family newsletter? Do you want to decorate your home? If so, how much is enough? Are there special traditions that you want to include? Are there parties you want to attend or some that you should skip this year? What is a reasonable spending limit? Do you need to talk to kids ahead of time about what Christmas will look like this year?

This is what I know. Just yesterday I saw that Walmart released their Black Friday sales. Not only that, they are starting those promotions at 10pm on Thanksgiving night (so much for Black Friday). Target will open at midnight with its door buster sales. And this is only the beginning. The buying, the rushing, the busyness, the stress will happen if you let it.

It is NOT too late to make this your best holiday season ever. And that doesn't mean more gifts, more parties, and more spending. It may actually mean less. But that's up to you. Have you started planning? What's your strategy?

"I will examine my holiday activities in light of my values, and because there's no way I can do it all, I will choose those things that bring the greatest joy and happiness to me and my family." ~Mary Hunt from Debt Proof Your Holidays


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