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Many of us are still financially recovering from Christmas, and already Valentine's Day is upon us. Does anybody feel like we're constantly saving for - or reeling from - a constant barrage of special occasions?
Here's a technique to help you plan and save for all special occasions, taking into account some of the extra expenses you bear around these times that might be throwing your budget off-track. (An added benefit: you won't likely forget special occasions any more either).
I like using a wall calendar which is hung prominently in the home. That way I can see at a glance what each month holds, and I tend to use it for scheduling household events and social activities as well.
Other people prefer to keep their gift calendars separate from other scheduling calendars, choosing a "universal" calendar that rolls over from year to year to negate the need to fill in a new calendar each year.
And those of us who have more eagerly embraced the world of electronic schedules may prefer to use a computer or mobile-based calendar program as a gift calendar. Do what works best for you.
On a separate piece of paper or (better yet) on a budget spreadsheet, make a list of all the special occasions you can think of. Here are a few to get the juices flowing:
Next, concentrate on birthdays: Parents, kids, siblings, friends, and extended family. Don't forget anniversaries either!
Beside each occasion, write down what you can budget for each, along with any notes or suggestions for gift ideas or specific costs.
Many special occasions don't call for gifts, but end up costing us in the form of bringing bottles of wine or other host-based gifts to dinners, hosting meals or events (don't forget the cost of decorations), attending celebrations, or participating in other social forays that financially add up. Heck - even going to an innocuous Halloween costume party costs money.
So if there's a celebration of any sort, be honest with yourself as to whether you would spend any money on it. Now is your time to budget for it.
This budget sheet is a work-in-progress as the year goes on. When you receive a heaven-sent idea of what to give your spouse for their birthday despite the fact that it is months off, record it in the budget! If the associated cost of that gift involves tweaking the budget either way, the sooner you record it, the better.
You'll also find special occasions that you couldn't have anticipated will crop up during the year. Weddings, showers, condolence and get-well gifts, office pools, and special occasions for new friends are all examples of events that will work their way into your life that can't be planned for. As soon as you know of these new occasions, be sure to update your gift calendar and budget sheet with this new information.
Once you have a concise breakdown of special occasions for the year along with a cost analysis and gift suggestion list, it's time to transpose this information (or at least the gist of it) to your gift calendar!
Do this in whatever way works best for you; I like filling in just the person's name and corresponding occasion so I can view each month at a glance, and I cross-reference my budget spreadsheet for more specific gift information. You may instead wish to combine the budget sheet and gift calendar into one useful tool instead of keeping them separate.
Because your gift calendar is a working budget with a changing social landscape, you would do well to build a financial buffer into your annual budget to accommodate for this. How active your social and working life is will determine the amount of buffer to incorporate, if any.
Gift calendars are great for the whole family. Younger kids can decorate the gift calendar and fill in special occasion information with colored markers, while older kids can contribute gift idea suggestions and participate in the budgeting.
Do you have any tricks for planning and budgeting for (and remembering) special occasions?
Educating Your Children About Money Part 1
Thinking Outside the Gift Box
Frugal Gifts From the Heart
Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under our Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated CareOne Blogger. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora
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