Pile o' Holiday Cash

We all know when the holidays roll around. It's literally the same time every year but we still manage to find ourselves scrambling for time and money to get through an already (potentially) stressful season. Here's where we tapped into my mother's approach to year-long savings for important events like Christmas.

As a single mother with three young children, she needed to be able to take on the additional expense that comes along at the holidays. As far back as I can remember, she set aside a flat amount of money out of each pay check and deposited into a special savings account (I think she actually called it her Christmas Club account). I vividly remember watching her as she wrote the amount each pay period into the check book so she could see a running total as the year progressed (well before internet banking). We were definitely not rich and I can't even say were mid-middle class but I do know that at Christmas time there was always a small pile of gifts under the tree for each of us and a special Christmas lunch waiting after the wrapping paper hit the floor. I have no doubt that the financial worries she experienced didn't magically dissolve because of this one little life hack she created, but I do know that it was a little less stressful when it came to figuring out how she could afford to make Christmas a special time for her family.

In sharing this story with others over the years, it occurred to Dave and I that we could take the same concept and apply it to not only covering the costs of food at the holidays (Thanksgiving at the Nelsons has been known to have 43 people in attendance!), but also giving back to the community.

A quick group email to the extended family landed with agreeing to each household depositing $25 per month into a centralized online account. Every November, we tally the total and split it between holiday food costs and donating non-perishable food items to a local food bank (which is also a fantastic way to teach the kids about the importance of giving back to the community...but that's another article).

Even if you try this approach with just your own household, $25 per month over 11 months (January through November) would generate $275. This may not seem like a lot but I’m guessing that it could take the edge of the grocery bill when you go to buy that turkey with all the fixings. Got more than one household that would be interested in jumping in the pool? Here are some sample numbers:

$25/month x 2 households x 11 months = $550

$25/month x 4 households x 11 months = $1,100

$25/month x 8 households x 11 months = $2,200

We love seeing numbers like this especially when we hear from other family members that it’s easier to save $25 per month than it is to come up with $275 every November. As I mentioned earlier, we split the total of the family account between holiday food costs and charitable donations but you and your family can decide how you want distribute the funds (which can also be a fun exercise).

Remember, it's never too late to start. Don't wait until January to kick this type of program into gear. Start today. You will thank yourself this time next year!