I'm not sure how to start this blog post, so I'm going to start by saying that my husband got me South Park's The Stick of Truth (TSOT) video game for Christmas. I was playing it today, and was having so much fun that I played for five hours without realizing it (I'm now a Level 4 Jew! That's more Jew then I am in real life).
Why do I bring this up? Because I realized that playing the Stick of Truth was a huge lesson in budgeting for the holidays next year.
Bear with me...
If you've ever played TSOT, or any Role Playing Game (RPG) for that matter, you know that as you adventure you find a lot of Junk. It's everywhere. Every time you explore a new area or you defeat an enemy you get some "good stuff" and a lot of "Junk". Most people forget about the Junk and just go for the good stuff. However, if you are a low level character, or just starting out, that Junk could make the difference.
Because you can sell the Junk for money.
It's not a lot of money, but it's some. And if you sell enough Junk you can afford better armor, better weapons, or train new skills.
I played TSOT for five hours, and made over $100 in In-Game money just buy selling Junk at five cents a pop.
See where I am going with this?
Imagine every day you take the change out of your pocket and put in into a jar. At the end of a month you take that jar to the bank and cash it in. It might not be much. It might be only $20... but after 10 months, that's $200. That's a gift budget.
The problem with this is... you need to use cash. It's way easier and more secure to use a card.
I've got you there.
Imagine you use one credit card to pay for everything. Something like the Amazon Visa or the American Express Blue that gives you points for every dollar you use. And let's say you pay that card off every month so you're not paying those fees.
And let's say Christmas comes around and it's time to buy gifts and you have no money because you don't have a job and your savings in dwindling, and you can't bring yourself to dip into it for the sake of a few gifts... and you look and see that you have points towards purchases on Amazon. $250 worth of points on Amazon.
It's hard to see those gains one pocketful of change or one month of card purchases at a time, but over time it adds up. If RPGs tell you anything, it's that the Junk adds up.
The time to start building that budget for Christmas is right now, while you still have 360 days to save.
So, here's my challenge to anyone who says that they never have money for holiday presents:
- Build your 2016 Budget. I used a combination of Apple's Numbers Budget Template and added some stuff myself. I also use Mint.com to help track my spending.
- If you prefer to use cash: Switch to only cash/your debit card for one month. Empty your change out of your pockets every night. See how much you recoup at the end of the month. In my experience it's been anywhere from $5-$20 back.
- If you prefer to use credit cards: Switch to only one credit card. If you are running a balance on other credit cards, pay them down, and stop using them. Use a card that will get you some points or rewards on things that you can use.