Create a Holiday Budget — and Stick To It!

Photo Credit: ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

Photo Credit: ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

So many of us go into the season without any kind of budget and we quickly find ourselves running out of money. The holidays are expensive, and creating a budget will ensure that you are smiling — and not stressing — come January.

  • Start with a list of everything you think you may need to purchase. Here are a few examples: gifts, stocking stuffers, gift wrap, postage and shipping, holiday meals, party supplies, Christmas tree and decorations, and travel expenses.
  • Review your list and evaluate which are the necessities and which are not. For example, as much as you might like to buy a few new decorations, this may not be the year to do it if you plan on hosting a party or a dinner as grocery bills add up fast! Identify your top priorities. For example, sending out Christmas cards costs money, so you may consider sending an e-card this year instead, or using a postcard to save a bit on postage. Many people use Facebook and other social media sites to wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. Whatever you choose, make sure it feels comfortable to you and your family, just don't forget these little things that can add to the bottom line of your holiday budget!
  • It's time to look at your bank account and determine your budget. How much can you afford for each item on your list? Make sure to carry your budget with you when you're shopping. Track your expenses as you go, and be aware if you are over or under budget. You will likely need to make adjustments as you go. Want to take your savings one step further? Eliminate temptation and leave your credit cards at home. Bring cash with you for shopping and once the cash is gone, go home! It will help to have a calculator with you to add up purchases as you go.

As part of your budget, make sure to include a list of everyone you are buying gifts for and what your budget is for each gift. Think about gift ideas for each individual prior to shopping — this can eliminate any impulsive purchases. Writing out your list will not only help you to stay within your budget, but will make sure you don't forget anyone. If your budget is tight this year, consider one of the more cost effective gifts below. Remember, sometimes a simple card to let someone know you are thinking of them is perfect.

One of the things we changed in my family a few years ago was to draw names for gifts. Now, instead of having to buy a gift for everyone in the family, we are in charge of just one person. This is not only more cost effective but it has made shopping a lot less stressful, and more fun!

Ideas and Tips to Save Money this Season

  1. Plan and research
    If you are looking for a particular product make sure to research and do some comparison shopping, including any online shopping you may do. I am consistently amazed at the different price points on the same items at different stores, particularly this time of year. If you are shopping online, make sure to order from sites that offer free shipping — shipping costs can add up quickly. Consider shopping at discount stores and second hand stores. You might be amazed of what you can find. Always be on the lookout for sales and extra discounts. The Sunday paper is a great resource for upcoming sales and shopping events.

  2. Cost Effective Gifts
    You don't have to spend a lot of money to give a great gift. One of my favorite gift ideas is the gift of time. Offer your babysitting services, help someone with meal planning for a week, give two free hours of yard work, or a free housecleaning. These kinds of gifts can make a huge difference in someone's life. If you have kids, a night out with your spouse is better than some gadget you will never use, right? That goes for your friends with kids, too, so give out date-night kid-sitting gift cards! Consider a homemade gift. Set aside a day to bake different cookies and candies. Wrap them up in a festive tin or box with a nice card. One the easiest ways to stay on budget is to give a gift card. This can be great solution for those people who are really hard to buy for.

  3. Wrapping the Gifts
    Wrapping paper, bows, and all of the other supplies needed to wrap a gift can add up! Visit your local dollar store for cheaper gift wrap or better yet, make your own! This is a great idea if you have kids. Have them be in charge of drawing pictures and designs on regular construction paper and use this as your wrapping paper. Be smart, the biggest way to stay within your budget with gift wrap is to only buy what you need. You may also want to consider using solid colors for your gift wrapping, this way you can use it again for other gifts throughout the year. Finally, the biggest deals on holiday wrapping come the day after Christmas. Plan ahead and stock up for next year!

  4. Planning your Party
    Staying on budget when you are hosting a party can be a challenge. First, do some planning and design a menu that is cost effective. Check out what is in season and what food is on sale right now. Plan your menu around these items, then look at your coupon stash. You may be able skim a few dollars that way. Don't be shy — ask your guests to participate by assigning a dish to each guest or couple, or ask that they bring a bottle of wine to share. You don't have to be responsible for it all! Not only will this help keep the party within your budget, it will decrease the stress of preparation.

Enjoy the season!