Fashion is notorious for resurrecting the "old" and making it "new" again. Think bell bottoms, platform shoes, skinny jeans, you name it. Wait long enough, and it will be incorporated back into the mainstream. While we expect this with fashion, music and movies, we rarely think about it applying to our finances.
However, with all the discussion of recession and depression, we can appreciate that solid ideas from "back in the day" are still good ideas today. Take the Christmas Club for example, it's a brilliant way to save for expenses you know you will incur (like Christmas, hint: it comes the same time every year). A Christmas Club is an interest bearing savings product designed to help people easily save money each month and then recieve a lump sum payment of the savings and interest just in time for holiday shopping in November.
Can you believe that Christmas is only 5 months away? How much have you saved to prepare for the holidays? The average American spent over $800 last year on holiday gifts, trimmings and travel. As a matter of fact, regardless of the economy, that number has held relatively steady for a number of years.
Believe it or not, the Christmas Club dates back to 1909 and was originated by a Pennsylvania bank, the Carlisle Trust Company. According to the book "Famous First Facts" by Joesph Kane, 350 customers joined the Christmas Club and on average saved about $28 each. Don't overlook the significance of $28. It is further proof that holiday spending has remained fairly steady, regardless of what is going on in the world. When you adjust that $28 from 1909 for inflation, it is equal to roughly $700 in today's money.
For decades, smart savers have relied on the Christmas Club to help them prepare, but just like everything else, the Christmas Club lost it's appeal during the decades of the credit boom. But just as bell bottoms and platform shoes have a new lease on life, Christmas Clubs are back in the mainstream as a result of the recent credit crisis. Most community banks in our area offer a Christmas Club option. You can expect a low interest yield, low minimum balance, fees for early withdrawal and a lump sum check or automatic transfer of funds to a spending account in early November. Please note, the point of this account is not the interest. The interest is simply a bonus. The point is the discipline that it creates for you to save a little at a time to keep from charging a huge amount later. Christmas Clubs are very beneficial for those people who need a little structure staying faithful to their savings plan.
So how is the best way to start? First, you need to decide how much you think you will spend over the holiday season.To get a more accurate figure, look back at your old bank statements or tally up last year's receipts, add 10% and you now have a savings target. Then, check with local banks to find a Christmas Club or savings plan that makes sense for you. Be sure to ask questions and thoroughly compare the features and benefits, before making a decision. Next, you will need to take the total of your estimated expenses and divide over the time you have left to save before mid-November. Once you know how much you will need to save monthly to meet your savings goal, set up weekly or monthly transfers to automatically move money to the specified account. You will be amazed by how quickly your savings will add up and how much more fun you will have over the holidays when you aren't dreading paying for your spending months later.
While the Christmas Club is not a new idea, it's certainly is a good idea. Yet another reminder that common sense can be an old idea that's new again. Common sense has a way of surviving the generations and waiting quietly to be recognized again at just the right moment.