Christmas in July: Tips on making a holiday spending plan

By Jodi Moynihan

It happens every year. Sometime in summer, that one super organized friend will tell you how she has started her Christmas shopping already.

No matter how much you love Christmas and Christmas shopping, it takes extra planning and preparing to think about the people you need to buy gifts for and how much you are going to spend on them when it’s 85 degrees outside.

But if you don’t get started on your holiday shopping until the snow flies, haven’t done any saving and rely solely on your credit cards for payment, it’s time to break the cycle.

“How can I do that since it’s already July?” you say. Below are some simple tips to get a head start on this year. By the end of the holiday season, you will have developed a new habit to lead you into the new year.

You, too, can be like your super organized friend by planning ahead, making a list and not getting caught in the same trap you have fallen into in previous years.

Financial Information and Service Center, a program of Goodwill, offers free Power of Money workshops. Participants can discover proven ways to build a budget that works, spend less and save more, reduce debt, prepare for unexpected expenses and have financial peace of mind. These three-week classes are held on consecutive Tuesdays from 6 to 8:15 p.m. at the Goodwill Community Campus, 1800 Appleton Road, Menasha. To register, call 920-886-1000 or go online to

Here are FISC’s tips on how to make a holiday spending plan.

Make a list of whom you want to buy for. This may seem silly because you think you know, but when you start writing it down, there are more people than you realize. Kids, parents, siblings, spouse or significant other, in-laws, grandparents. But what about nieces and nephews, teachers, neighbors, friends? Especially if you have a large family, do you buy for all? How about drawing names and agreeing to spend the same amount? Make a list and stick to it.

Determine how much you can afford to spend. What we’d like to spend and what our budget will allow us to spend are often not the same. If you decide $600 ($50 a month) is what you can afford, write what you will spend next to each name from your list above to total no more than that. If you truly want to extend the gift-giving to all those nieces and nephews, it may only be $5 per person, and that’s OK.

Set money aside each month. Whether you follow the envelope system, have a put-and-take savings account or a separate Christmas savings account, designate Christmas money and do not touch it during the year, unless you are Christmas shopping. If you use credit cards to pay for gifts and do not pay off your statement in full each month, the $600 you spent could turn in to hundreds more with interest, depending on how long it takes you to pay them off.

Watch sales throughout the year. You do not have to buy only during the holiday season. In fact, those sales may not really be sales at all. Know your prices, and when you see a good deal, reach into that Christmas account and feel good about it.

Use layaway programs. When I was a child, my parents would shop early in the year, put items on layaway at the store, make payments to the store each month until the items were paid off and pick up the items shortly before Christmas. We would do that with school clothes, too. Stores started getting away from that option years ago but have started bringing it back again.

Give homemade gifts. Each year I make cookies, candies and jams that I give to the family member who needs nothing but I still want to do something for. These gifts often are more appreciated because they truly come from the heart.

Tired of the stress and pressure to buy just the right thing? Consider giving to a charity that helps those in need during the holidays and cold weather such as assisting a warming shelter whether it be with food or gifts. This is also a great way to help your children learn about supporting nonprofit organizations, helping those in need and understanding how much they really do have.

Today is the perfect day to start that list, look at your budget and make some adjustments to plan for your holiday spending. Having a plan and putting it into action will give you a new appreciation for the holidays. You will have time to spend with your family and friends by focusing on their presence rather than their presents. And you will not have a Christmas hangover when you get your credit card bills because even those will be paid through your Christmas fund. The joy and love of the holiday season will be yours to enjoy again.

About Goodwill: Goodwill NCW is a not-for-profit human services organization that believes in Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment across 35 counties in north central Wisconsin. Goodwill NCW is one of four companies in the nation to be honored with a Platinum Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America, which recognizes our commitment to wellness in the workplace. The organization includes 27 retail stores and training centers in communities from Manitowoc to La Crosse, 24 human services programs, a unique shopping experience at its Appleton outlet store, plus online shopping at, a women’s apparel website, and It offers four Donation Express sites and 10 convenient donation bins throughout the Fox Cities. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit


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