Today is my son’s 12th birthday. Time travels so quickly. It doesn’t seem like 12 years since we were bringing him home from the hospital.
When it comes to occasions for gift giving, I might have been known to overdo it a little. Probably stems from being an only child, as well as the only grand child on my mother’s side. But partly too, I do get a lot of joy out of giving gifts to those I love.
That said, these occasions in the past have sometimes been budget busters. I didn’t plan well and then I’d get carried away with buying gifts and before I knew it the credit card balance was creeping back up. I suspect I am probably not the only person who has ever experienced this, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Create a birthday calendar
It should not come as a surprise to me that my son’s birthday is May 8. Amazing how it occurs on the same day every year. The problem is life happens and sometimes these days sneak up on us quicker than we realize.
One solution is to create a birthday calendar. List the birthdays of all the significant folks in your life. Spouse, siblings, children, parents, friends, etc. Anyone that you plan to celebrate with more than perhaps a card.
Plus the calendar has the added benefit of helping you to not forget a loved ones birthday. Check this calendar at least monthly so you are reminded of what is coming up.
Establish a gift budget
Decide ahead of time on a gift giving budget. Look at that list of names and decide how much you want to spend on a gift or gifts for each one. Obviously, this total will be different for each person. You probably want to budget a little more for your spouse than for your buddy in the next cubicle at work. (At least I hope you do!)
Save a little each month
Once you have a budget for how much you intend to save this year, it is a fairly simply matter to save for them. Let’s say you have determined to spend $600 total on birthday gifts this year. That means you need to save $50 per month for birthday presents. Suppose you get paid twice a month; you’d want to set aside $25 from each pay.
Unless you are very disciplined, it is a good idea to either use the envelope system and save this cash in an envelope, or else set up a separate savings account for your gift money.
If you budgeted $25 for Aunt Suzy’s birthday and you see the perfect gift, but it’s $50, then you have three choices:
- Put it back and look for a $25 gift.
- Go ahead and buy it, but that means you need to reduce other people’s gifts by a total of $25.
- Buy it, but take the $25 from some other budget category.
How you do it doesn’t matter. The key is you are being intentional.
Not all gifts need to cost money
Sometimes the best gifts cost nothing at all.
A homemade card with a heart-felt note will likely be treasured long after the generic Hallmark card is forgotten. Many times parents or grandparents may be much more delighted by getting to spend some time with you than they are by more stuff that they may not need.
Birthday gifts don’t have to bust the budget
It is easy to get carried away when we are buying gifts for our loved ones. We enjoy buying things that will bring a smile to their face. But most loved ones really don’t want those gifts to leave us in a position where we are struggling with debt.
By planning ahead and saving, we can make sure that birthdays don’t become budget busters. You can take these same ideas and apply to Christmas, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, or any other gift giving occasions.