Get Ready Now for Christmas 2013

Dear Mary,

Every year my mom starts a Christmas club account and contributes to it each month. She swears by it and says that it makes her holiday shopping much easier because she doesn’t have to charge anything on her credit card account. I think it would be wiser for her to put that money in a savings account, let it earn some interest and then use some of it to buy the gifts. Who’s right? Sandy, Arizona 

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Dear Sandy,

You’re both right. I love the concept of a Christmas Club because of that automatic feature. Face it, we just don’t miss money we don’t see! Banks and credit unions that still offer Christmas Club accounts have no minimums or fees. And while they pay interest, it’s not much. She could easily create her own “Christmas Account,” as you suggest. Suggest that she research interest rates for online banks. Look for banks where she can boost her interest rate, not incur fees and easily link a savings account with her current checking account. 

Dear Mary,

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, and once again my husband’s goal is to get in shape. He wants to sign us both up for gym memberships, even though I’m sure this is just a phase that will fade. In the meantime, what should we consider when joining a gym? I don’t want to get stuck with high fees and an unbreakable contract. Robin, Georgia

Dear Robin,

Good for both of you! Before you sign anything, check with your employer or health plan. Some offer discounted memberships for selected gyms. Most clubs offer one or more free workouts or trial memberships for a month or so.

Be sure to visit the gym at different times during your trial period to try the equipment and to see when it’s crowded. It sounds like you’re a good shopper, so you know how important it is to compare prices and contracts. Ask what your options are for ending the contract early if you aren’t happy. Many gyms offer month-to-month memberships. Do your homework, choose a gym, and then stick with it no matter what.

Dear Mary,

I did a very stupid thing. I got a robo-call from the bank that issued one of my two credit cards. It said I was late on the payment (I was; don’t ask; earlier stupid thing), and would I authorize a payment from my checking account? Hey, sure, one more thing I don’t have to take care of.

I blithely rattled off my checking account number, the bank routing number, a check number, and the amount I authorized.

After I hung up it hit me: an anonymous robot had called me and I shared all the information someone would need to clean out my checking account. Before I closed my account or stopped payment on any and all drafts, I called the bank. Fortunately, the call was legitimate and the payment was being processed. But I will NEVER be that careless again! Please warn your readers. Bonnie, Texas

Dear Bonnie,

You just did. Thanks!

Question: Do you have a Christmas Club, Freedom Account subaccount or special savings account set up for Christmas 2013? Join in the discussion here


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  • MarcieS

    I join the Christmas Club every year at my credit union. I have $25 deposited automatically every two weeks and it becomes available in October. If you need to withdraw from it, there’s $10 charge. But as Mary says, you don’t miss money you don’t see and I don’t withdraw from it. The only time see it is when I check my balances on-line. I smile with gratitude then go on about my business. I was going to add another $25 to it (I’m still considering it); because I received a 3% raise last year, but it dropped to 1% due to the 2% tax increase. It seems around that time of year, I need extra money than usual due to unexpected events and my kids and one grandchild were born in either December or January.

  • I have a Christmas Club account where I contribute $25 per week and then the bank pays my last payment. So on $1,225, I earn $25.00 “interest” which is more than I would get if I put that same amount each week into a savings account, at least at my bank. Also, it comes straight out of my account and thus, I am committed to it and knowing myself, if i was left to my own devices, I would think of excuses not to make the contribution sometimes.

  • joan

    Our bank pays the same interest on Christmas clubs as on a savings account. They pay out in Oct. and that is the month we have some taxes come due, so we get Christmas club accounts to also save for our tax bill. This makes tax time and Christmas shopping a whole lot easier

  • Ruth M.

    I have an American Express Blue Cash Credit Card. I use it for every purchase where it is accepted, even Dr. bills and some monthly bills – always for gas, groceries and drugstore items, clothing, etc. Amex keeps account of the interest points I earn. The amount is shown on each monthly statement. I pay the entire bill monthly until the end of the year. My yearly interest points are enough to use for Christmas purchases. It is so easy!

  • Holly W.

    My mother kept her own Christmas “club” in the drawer of her desk. She put cash in there each week and it would “grow” until needed. The cool thing about this method is that it was available for Christmas shopping through the year so that when she found an item on sale in May that would be a good gift she could buy it then. I suspect that it more than made up for not actually getting interest on the account in a bank. Won’t work if you aren’t disciplined but it was always a fine example to me.

  • Chirping

    I purchase my Christmas gifts throughout the year and put them in the closet. I also purchase other gifts too when I see a sale or something special. In this way I can select something for each individual that has staying power and not waste money on junk. It allows me to spend a little more on the gift and also allows me to give greater consideration to that gift for that person.

  • CMJ

    I started my Christmas Club and Vacation Club this year. I’m excited because it’s yet another way to compartmentalize my saving and control my spending.

  • Dusty, Arizona

    I have several accounts through Ally Bank. I name them, Christmas, Girl’s Trip, Contengency Fund, etc. I have autowithdraw from my checking account each month to a designated amount for each of these accounts. My Christmas account and Contengency Funds are money markets and I have debit cards for them. While I don’t use my Cont. Funds, I use my debit cards for Christmas purchases or to withdraw cash when it’s time to go shopping. I do a lot of shopping online so having the card is good for that and it comes right out of my Christmas funds.

  • Satisfied Smarty Pig Customer

    I have an account at Smarty Pig – I can set separate goals and the date they ‘mature’. I can have separate drafts to my checking account to fund each goal. I earn more interest on the savings than I’d get from my credit union. Once the goal reaches the amount you set, the automatic draft of your checking or savings account ends. As long as I don’t ‘close’ a goal, it continues to earn interest. I have several goals that matured years ago but I found a way to pay the bills without touching the account – so they have been earning interest all this time. You can also open a goal without automatic draft and then add to it as you wish. I had one goal that I added 1/2 of my overtime pay (gross) to it whenever I earned overtime — the title on the goal “Stuff”. It’s still sitting there earning money.

  • Amanda

    I have a Christmas club account with my bank that pays same interest as my usual account. Between October and january we have 5 kids birthdays, husband, wedding anniversary, council rates, house car and health insurance due.
    So I calculate how much these all cost and put a fortnightly amount in so come October I have the money for those things plus Christmas.
    The interest isn’t much but it’s better than paying interest on credit card, late fees on bills. I also save money because I then pay the insurances ‘upfront’ instead of monthly.
    We don’t notice the money missing because its moved as soon as it goes into my account. But it’s a blessing in October when we are faced with some huge bills- single income family. Health insurance is $4000, but necessary in a family of 9- saves us money through year as all dental and doctors are then fully covered.

  • I have a Christmas club account with my local bank. It’s identical to my savings account but only allows deposits until the end of the term (right around Halloween) when checks are mailed out. (I actually use this account for a Thanksgiving weekend activity, but that’s another post.) Don’t forget that in these days of 1.5% interest, savings accounts are not all they’re cracked up to be either.

  • Debbie Sue

    I have a box of envelopes for all my variable expenses. Birthdays, clothing, hair cuts, ferry rides, sports for the kids, Christmas and even pedicures. It only works if you are honest about what you spend money on. The pedicure envelope may only get $10 a month but that is at least 2 a year. I deposit a set amount every month so I know that every year I have a certain amount of money to spend and my brain works around the amount. This year I went over by $15. It is much better than in years past where I had no money at Christmas and thought I had to use credit. The envelopes help me gauge my spending and it is so much easier to budget. The amounts vary year to year based on changes to our lives but I know what it takes to get by and where I can cut it I need to. Monthly envelopes work for me.

  • Sharon

    I used to have a deduction sent to my credit union account each pay period when I was working. I used that as my Christmas fund. Since retiring a year and a half ago, I have not continued to put any money aside in that account. Christmas 2012 we really felt the strain on our budget because we did not have that money set aside. Believe me this month we are starting to put money into the savings account for Christmas 2013. We will have to save a little extra during the months when the heating and cooling bills are low. We are debt free except for our mortgage.

  • Beck

    I think Christmas clubs are great I have had one twice before I usually forget to open one by the date our bank requires. I wish they just let them roll over and start again rather than opening a new one each year.
    I try to buy stuff through the year at festivals and sales for stocking stuffers or even big items that are unique. It is more fun to shop through the year than wait to the last minute and easier on the budget.