**I originally wrote this post in December 2007 but I never completed it or posted it. I’m posting it now because I think it’s still relevant. I’ll make some additional comments at the end.**
We have a budget. Budgets are a good thing. Budgets are a way to keep track of how much money is being spent and in what areas of your life. Normally it means that you know in advance if you actually will have enough money to pay all your bills and maybe go to the movies too. Or at this time of the year it’s a way to know you can pay the rent and still buy that special Christmas present for someone. It’s done in advance so that you’re able to achieve financial goals rather than scrambling to make ends meet after the fact. I’m not a personal finance blogger, so go see Trent at The Simple Dollar for more information on that stuff. He’s a great writer and puts it in easy to understand terms.
Last night we had a bit of a, um, disagreement. It wasn’t a fight, really, just a disagreement. It’s Christmas. I like Christmas. I like to buy Christmas presents. Actually I like to buy presents any time. I like to buy decorations. I’m also preparing for homeschooling Precious in January and this just feeds my desire to buy books, because of course now it’s for educational reasons. I don’t want my child to be left behind because I didn’t buy the right book!
Lest you think that I just ran hog wild buying everything in sight, you’re wrong. We have a budget and I’m sticking to it. Besides, my husband isn’t past telling me to take something back if I had overspent. Fortunately that has never happened. Although I remember one time that I was on a business trip and spent my daily per diem a bit too frivolously and voluntarily returned an item.
So we were having our discussion. And during our discussion it came to light that my husband and I have two differing points of view regarding Christmas, although we share the same foundation. We both believe firmly that Christmas is not about spending money. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. And we honour this by celebrating advent with our children. We choose not to make Santa a part of our Christmas. We are always trying to help the kids understand that Christmas isn’t just about presents and that we should be giving much more than we receive. This is really the first Christmas this has been an issue since our oldest is just four.
But then we diverge. I honestly think that my husband would be perfectly happy if we never bought Christmas presents. For anybody. Not even the kids. He’s not a scrooge, honestly, he’s not. He just wants the focus to be on Christ. However, he understands that this would make me really unhappy. So we have determined that we will buy some gifts, but we won’t spend much. We had agreed a few months ago that we would spend $50 total on the three kids. We have very generous parents and aunts and uncles and we knew that the kids wouldn’t even notice if didn’t get them anything, but of course I would I bought them a very nice wooden easel, with chalkboard on one side. I had planned on also getting them some paints, chalk, and brushes, but then we had the budget discussion so now I’m hoping to find a homemade paint recipe online And I can probably scrounge up some sponges.
But other than the discussion regarding how much to spend on the kids and how much we would spend on each other (we don’t normally buy anything for each other) we didn’t make any decisions on the other spending. I knew that any gifts we bought for others would come from our gift budget, which is also supposed to fund birthdays and such throughout the year. And friends, it’s not that big of a budget, but I’m very grateful that we have one at all.
So, I was merrily buying a little gift here and a little gift there. I was not spending indiscriminately and I wasn’t buying for all and sundry. But last night we were working on our finances, making sure the envelopes were up to date (electronically - we do it all on the computer) and… hey look! The gift budget is in the red. Thus our discussion began.
This is what I gleaned from the discussion. Handsome emphatically said that Christmas is NOT going to receive it’s own line item in the budget. He is categorically opposed to that for one reason: Christmas is NOT about spending money and if we give it a line item then it becomes about money. Okay, I can understand that. But I shared that it was then important that we perhaps have sub-categories so that I know I must save a certain amount of money in the gift budget, for example. Because honestly I’ll spend half of the gift budget at Christmas time, but if I’ve already spent 75% of it by Dec 1, then I’m out of luck. Everyone’s getting a Christmas card.
And where are Christmas decorations supposed to come from? We have a household misc. budget, which is where I put things like batteries and light bulbs. And I wouldn’t be able to buy many lightbulbs with it. The point that Handsome was making to me, though, was not that he didn’t want me to buy Christmas presents or Christmas decorations, it’s just that the money has to come from somewhere and it has to be legitimate (no sneeking garland into my grocery budget, unless it’s edible!) It’s too easy to say, oh, it’s just $20. Oh, it’s just $5. And all of a sudden we’ve way overspent and we’re regretting it.
So, budgets. Gotta love ‘em because they help us be good stewards of the wonderful gifts that the Lord has provided us. But I also hate them because 1) when it comes down to it I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I don’t want anyone
**and that’s the end of the post, as I wrote it a year ago. A few updates: we did indeed end up adding a Christmas line item to our budget, specifically for things like decorations, cards, etc. It is not for gifts. That still comes out of the gift budget. Essentially our gift budget is so small that any gifts we do give are generally handmade and not expensive.