Excel spreadsheets are once again becoming my best friend.
As I begin preparing my annual Christmas shopping list, instead of my usual paper system tacked onto my bulletin board or stuffed in my wallet, I have decided to lay out my list of people, and purchases, in a few simple columns so that I can easily find and track all of the information.
At the end of last year’s holiday season, I realized that my budget should not only include those items I buy for gifts, but all the other items I end up purchasing because it’s the one time of the year that I actually take time out to shop. It’s the extra things that end up blowing my budget and bloating my credit-card bill come January.
It also helps me reinforce the fairness factor among my kids. We always try to make sure that we split our immediate family budget pretty evenly among them, but having a formula that automatically tallies up the amounts for me as I input each one makes it a lot easier to make sure that I am keeping my word.
And interestingly it helps to get my husband more involved in the planning. Trying to interpret my paper notes often left him guessing, and therefore left out, of the process. The spreadsheet is easier to follow, and help fill out, giving him a chance to be more proactive and engaged.
The conversations prompted by this exercise also help us set better priorities. For example, in looking at the list of possible “stuff” we could buy, we realized that as a couple we weren’t interested in accumulating many more things for ourselves. After 16 years together, we pretty much have what we need or want. This year, we decided to pool our gift money for each other to buy one larger item for our home.
What are your plans for holiday shopping this year?
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