Friday, January 3, 2014

Keep Christmas with You All Through the Year

Inside the beautiful Paris Market
I like to hide my money from myself. The same day my direct deposit goes into my account, my savings accounts pull out money so that I never see most of it -- I'm left with a small amount of spending money, or what I consider to be my allowance.

I say savings accounts, plural, because I use a few to help move me toward my goals. One is a safety net, one is money set aside for travel, and another collects everything necessary to cover my monthly bills. The first account is one I ignore completely, because I know I am not allowed to touch it. The second, for travel, is used for travel costs, obviously, so I also don't pay much attention to that until we start planning a trip. And the third, for my monthly bills, automatically transfers the correct amounts of necessary dough back to my bank account in time to pay the bills. I round up for this last one, so every few months there's a little extra I can add to one of my other savings accounts.

But this year, I'm considering adding another sub-account... This time for holiday gifts.

I went a bit over my intended budget for gifts this year, so I've spent some time thinking about how I can correct that next year. In the past, I've tried using only cash, with set amounts of money in different envelopes, each marked for a specific person. But over the years, as I've searched for gifts online more frequently, the cash-only policy no longer works. Up until this year, I've kept in mind the target amount I want to spend on each person, and I've been pretty good about sticking to it, but this year I started buying gifts early, and I bought multiple smaller gifts for people, so as time went on, I lost track of what I spent on each person.

By setting aside money starting now for next year, I hope to give myself a solid cap, and keep from going over at year's end. Another advantage to starting now is that if I find a great item well before the holidays, I can pull from this account for it. This will allow me to use the money early, without allowing me to be unaware of the grand total spent by the end of the season.

And, of course, as with all budgeting choices, it's smart to spread the money spent out as far as possible. By tossing it into a savings account automatically throughout the year, the year end spending won't be painful, because I never saw the money to begin with.

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut