Friday, December 17, 2010

Taking the Surprise Factor out of Christmas

We only buy gifts for immediate family in order to keep it simple, and I *try* to make handmade gifts for extended family and friends each year. (This year I've made a few, and the relative silence on the blog is me trying to make some more!) In spite of all this, Christmas came as a surprise to us last year, and the year before, and the year before, and...

We ended up buying gifts using a credit card, and ended up carrying a balance for a couple of months, because we didn't think about it until...December!

My husband and I both have always had frugal "tendencies," better said,"intentions." Neither of us would make big purchases without serious thought and prayer and would always look and wait for an amazing deal. Neither of us enjoy shopping. As a matter of fact, we both rather loathe it. We don't feel a need or desire for a big house and new fancy everything. My motto is "less is more." I've always wanted to travel light, and not accumulate a lot of "stuff". I'm the opposite of a pack rat, I go through closets and drawers periodically looking for things to give away, throw away, or sell. My mom used to go through the trash cans after me and pull things back out. (It's really amazing that I still struggle with being messy in spite of this. I've been wanting to get rid of all furniture that provides a place to put random things and get cluttered up, like our dresser. I don't think we need it, but my husband is not convinced! He definitely will not let me get rid of the kitchen table. I can't imagine why! ;)

All this said, because of our lack of need to "keep up with the Jones," we fancied ourselves quite frugal, but in reality, in spite of my husband's disciplined attention to our finances and wonderful organization, we still managed to only be able to save very little relative to what we should have been able to and we would regularly "get in trouble" come Christmas or any other totally "unexpected" need or occasion.

This year we took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, and gleaned a lot of ideas and insights that have pretty much revolutionized the way we handle our finances. We learned that in spite of our mindset, we were still not living frugally. This will be the first in a series about some of the things we've learned and practical examples of how it works for us.

As a result of that course, this year we started a "Christmas Envelope," putting a little in each month since. It has been WONDERFUL to have that envelope and know exactly what our limits are and to be prepared. It has made this season much more peaceful so far, and most of our gifts are wrapped and under the tree in record time! :)

I will discuss in coming weeks the four essential things that have changed our lives in more ways than just finances:

1. A new perspective on debt and credit.

2. A zero based monthly budget.

3. What I like to call "The Envelope System"

4. A bigger than ever desire and passion for giving.

Stay tuned!