Budget and Save

4 Steps to Create (and Stick to) a Holiday Budget

Erin Palmer

November 06, 2017

Create (and Stick to) a Holiday Budget

It happens to people every year. The holidays come and the money goes. For many, holiday spending slowly piles up over time. It’s very common to accidently overspend this time of year.

But this year will be different! Follow these tips to create and stick to a holiday budget that works for you.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Start your holiday planning by making lists to guide you throughout the budgeting process. Write the holiday at the top, then list out all the activities your family will participate in for that holiday, including any gifts you plan on giving.

Make sure that you include EVERY holiday-related activity so you can get an accurate idea of the complete amount the holiday will cost you.

Common examples include:

  • Holiday gifts (including anyone you plan on shopping for this season)
  • Holiday meals (including office parties and school parties that require a dish)
  • Social gatherings (including gift exchanges, hostess gifts, ugly holiday sweaters for themed parties, etc.)
  • Sending holiday cards or gifts (cost of printing and mailing cards, photography costs for professional photos, shipping gifts, etc.)
  • Holiday activities for kids (photos with Santa, theme park visits, holiday attractions, etc.)
  • Travel (including cost of boarding pets, gas for road trips, baggage fees, etc.)
  • Holiday trimmings (gift wrap, ribbons, decorations, cards, etc.)

Once you have all the activities listed out, you can create a shopping list of what you’ll need to buy for each activity. Then you can use that list to begin your budget.

Seeing everything listed out can also help you double check your list to make sure that everything on it is essential. You may see opportunities to trim the list down or save money in other ways. For example, maybe you can wear something you already own instead of buying a new outfit for a holiday party.

Make sure that you stick to your list. Don’t let yourself get caught up in shopping whims.

A holiday gift exchange Smart planning will help you save money during the holidays. But the most important part is always the memories you make with the people you love.

Get Creative with Gift Giving and Meal Planning

Now that you have a list of everything you’ll need to spend money on this holiday season, you can use a little creativity to save money along the way. Plus, these ideas are fun!

There are a ton of ways to save money on gifts. You could create something handmade instead of store bought. Or choose a fun theme and spending limit for gift exchanges with friends and family.

You could also make gift exchanges into a game. If you have a big extended family, consider doing a Secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange.

If you earn rewards points for a credit or debit card, see if any of your holiday shopping could be done with your points. This could help with holiday travel as well.

Your holiday meal could also benefit from a little creativity. If you’re hosting a large group, keep costs down by making it a potluck. Or you could cook the main meal and ask guests to bring the extras like desserts and wine.

If it is just your family, take a close look at your shopping list and see what could be cut. Think of the dishes that always seem to have a ton of leftovers and see if they are necessary.

For a small family, you could let each family member choose their favorite dish for the meal and eliminate the extra side dishes. For a large family, you could make a meal ballot beforehand and let each guest vote for the dishes they would like the most.

Make Your Budget

Once you have the list of your needs and use creative planning to cut some costs, you can make a specific budget for the holidays. Talk to your spouse or partner and decide together what budget will work with your existing bills and expenses.

You can use a spreadsheet or online budgeting tools to make and keep track of your holiday budget. Keep an eye out for moments where you can save money along the way. For example, if you budgeted $50 for a gift that you end up getting on sale for $30, try not to spend the $20 you saved.

It is possible that you will think of additional things you need along the way. Try to stay honest and make sure that these items are needed before adding them to the list. If you do add extra things, adjust the rest of the budget accordingly.

Plan Early for Next Year

After all the planning, budgeting and shopping, it’s understandable that you may be over the holidays by the time they are through. However, you can save money next year with some early planning this year.

At the end of the holiday season, many seasonal items like wrapping paper and home décor go on sale. Some of these price cuts can lead to drastic savings. It could be worth leaving a little room in your holiday budget for picking up a few things at the end of the season.

Also, keep your current holiday budget and use it to help you plan for next year. You may see areas where the budget needs to be adjusted. Keeping old budgets can also help you track long-term spending.

For next year, you also want to make your budget ahead of time. You may consider opening an account that is only for saving up for the holidays throughout the year. Use budgeting tools to create savings goals for future holiday spending.

Smart planning will help you save money during the holidays. But the most important part is always the memories you make with the people you love.

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