Start the new year off with a plan for a debt-free (fill in the blank)

Debt-free holiday
Debt-free property tax bill
Debt-free annual life insurance premium
Debt-free (your item here)

Each and every year, people start January off with a mountain of credit card debt from the holidays.  The holidays are about spending time with people you love.  They shouldn't be about putting yourself in the red for some cheap made in china plastic crap.  So, how do I/we keep our Christmas completely debt-free?  We pay it forward.

We decide on a yearly budget, and then divide by 24.  I get paid twice a month, so three days after payday, I have the set amount automatically withdrawn from our checking account in to one of our ING accounts.  ING is a "high" interest online bank that acts as a money market account.  There are various banks like this, or you can simply use a saving account where you already bank. 

I'll be honest and share our budget with you guys.  It's $360 per year.  If I had to shell out $360 at the end of the year, that would hurt.  A lot.  But $15 every 2 weeks?  Pretty painless.

The amount includes all the supplies for homemade items, shipping presents to friends/family around the country, and the store-bought items we also purchase for some giftees.  Troy and I don't buy gifts for each other, and we buy Jack one small gift; my mom and Troy's mom have him covered! The budget also includes a monetary gift to charity, or a purchase of something off of a "giving tree".  Additionally, we use it to donate items or cash to holiday gift baskets that my work complies for clients who are in need.

We use this tactic to pay it forward for our annual property taxes (for the property that we own and can't sell, but still have to pay a mortgage on.  Sigh), the bill for Troy and my life insurance premiums, and Jack's preschool tuition.  I also use this tactic to add to our emergency fund twice a month.

After the bills are paid, and we save for retirement it looks like we don't have much to spend.  And that's cause we don't, but at the same time, we have money in the bank to pay yearly bills when they come in the mail.  I don't have to hide in February and October when the tax man comes 'round.