How to Budget for the Christmas Holidays

There is no denying that Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. The traffic can be insane near shopping centers, waiting in long lines can get on anyone’s nerves, and the potential for financial ruin is enough to make anyone lose their holiday spirit. While you may not be able to completely avoid the traffic jams or the long lines at the checkout stand, you can take some steps to avoid the potential for financial troubles during the Christmas season.

*Set an amount

When it is time to start thinking about Christmas, pick a dollar amount and stick to it. Have this amount in cash, that way you are unable to accidentally go over it. No matter what the amount is, all of your holiday gifts, food, decorations and miscellaneous items must fall within it. If you are only able to set aside $50, so be it! By the way, yes it is possible to have a nice Christmas on $50. You might actually be surprised at what you can accomplish on a very small amount of money. The point to having a set amount for Christmas is so you can avoid getting yourself into financial trouble after the first of the year. Another good reason is so you can avoid falling into a depression over not being able to afford this or that. Just set your amount and not worry about it.

*Shop the sales

Resolve yourself not to buy anything that is not on sale. Absolutely forbid yourself to pay full price on anything; not gifts, not food and not decorations. You will be amazed at how much you can save by shopping the “Christmas in July” sales and other pre-season sales. Another way to go is to shop the blow out sales after Christmas (think about next year). It is never too early to start planning and shopping for next Christmas. One sale to be on the lookout for is “buy one get one.” These are a fantastic way to get something nice for two people on your shopping list. Another secret to great holiday shopping is second hand stores and thrift shops. There are all sorts of hidden treasures in these magical places. Also try hitting up yard and garage sales as well as dollar stores. 

*Cut back on personal expenses

Add some money to your Christmas funds by cutting back on some of your personal pleasures like shopping sprees for yourself, discontinuing subscriptions to magazines/books/movies/music, and even giving up your morning coffee stop before work or school. Eating out less also saves money, as can taking your lunch to work. Turning off lights when not in a room helps reduce your electric bill, which will leave more money in your pocket. You will probably have to cut back on these expenses for more than a month or two in order to really see the difference in your Christmas fund. One suggestion is to physically put the money in a jar or container marked for Christmas. For example if you spend $25 every time you eat out, put that $20 in the jar instead of going out, and consider it gone. 

*Try simplicity

This means instead of going all out and trying to buy lavish gifts and the fanciest decorations, go for opt for the beauty in basics. For example buy each person on your shopping list one nice gift rather than several nice gifts. Decorate with a few meaningful pieces and maybe even make some of your own decorations. Try to keep in mind the reason for the holiday, it is not about material things, it is a time to gather with loved ones and celebrate love and joy. What you do not have in fancy decorations and glittery packages, make up for with a jovial atmosphere. Make some homemade treats, offer hot cocoa and sit around talking, telling stories and singing songs. Create a celebration of people, not possessions. 

Instead of dreading Christmas time, take a deep breath and formulate a plan of attack, not the violent kind, the financial kind of plan. Figure out how much you can spare, set it aside and then hit the sales!