There’s no doubt that the holiday season can be a financial drain. It can be especially expensive if you’re celebrating Christmas with children or a large family. There are gifts and food to buy, often travel expenses, and all sorts of other extras. The key to getting through to the New Year is to make a budget. But how do you make that budget realistic and stick to it? Here are 10 easy tips to stay on budget this holiday season.
10 Easy Tips to Stay on Budget this Holiday Season
- Budget for Gifts and the Extras
Gifts are usually the largest financial expense over the holidays, so this tends to be what we focus our budgets on. But don’t underestimate the cost of food, drink, decorations, travel, and all the other associated extras that may arise.
When you make a budget, try to include everything you can think of.
If you’re hosting, do you have enough cutlery? What about items to accommodate families that are staying over? Try this holiday budgeting worksheet to make sure you cover your bases.
Those last minute shops for things you’ve forgotten can prove quite costly.
- Use Lists
Here’s another easy way to stay on budget this holiday season. We all know Santa has a list and checks it twice, and we often encourage children to write Christmas lists for gifts they desire. But what about lists for everything you need to buy and organize?
You can only stick to a budget if you have a list of everything you’ll be spending money on.
- Start Shopping Early
If you begin your shopping early, you can spread the cost over several weeks or months (and paychecks). This way, you won’t find yourself with only a few days to go and less money than you anticipated.
Rushing also leaves you prone to buying only what’s available at the store at the time, instead of having the freedom to go to multiple shops or come back the following week when there’s more stock, etc.
If what you want isn’t there, you may be forced to buy more expensive alternatives.
- Plan for Unexpected Expenses
Unexpected expenses can quickly throw your Christmas budget out of whack. Instead of re-budgeting to have less, consider using a credit card or loan. For example, if you suddenly need dental work done, consider dental care financing and not getting rid of the turkey.
This is a better approach than using credit to go wild on Christmas itself. And it will help to stay on budget this holiday season! If you find yourself having a hard time regulating credit card usage around the holidays, you may benefit from looking into help for credit card debt.
- Be Frugal in the Weeks Prior
To ensure you have enough money for the holidays, it’s wise to be extra frugal in the months before. This is only temporary, and that lovely Christmas food is going to taste all the better if you forgo some luxuries in the weeks prior.
- Get Kids One Main Gift
It’s easy to overspend on gifts, especially if you have children that have written lists of things they want.
One of the best ways to stay on track is to get them only one main gift (i.e., the most expensive item), and then lots of smaller and less expensive items (like chocolate, underwear, etc.) to pad things out.
So you don’t disappoint the kids, instead of getting them to write lists, tell them to name only one main gift themselves.
Other methods include the four gift rule – something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
- Look for Deals and Use Coupons
There’s no doubt that Christmas is hectic and stressful. And you may find that it’s easier to do all of your shopping at one store or an online store like Amazon because it simplifies your shopping experience. However, you could quickly lose money by not ‘shopping around,’ comparing prices or hunting for deals.
Online and traditional coupons are a great way to save money over the holidays, and it may be one of the few times when those “spend over $100 and get x” deals actually apply because you’ll be spending a lot more than usual.
- Consider Gift Cards
Sometimes it’s hard to budget for the holidays because you don’t know the prices of certain gifts and items. One solution is to set a hard total figure and then shop within the limit. Another way to ensure you don’t overspend on gifts, and actually stay on budget this holiday, is to buy gift cards instead.
This also allows the recipient to make their own purchasing choices, so they won’t be disappointed if you get something they don’t want.
- Don’t Try to Impress
We all like to think we’re above the old cliché of “keeping up with the Jones”. But, it’s really easy to fall into that trap at Christmas. If we’re hosting family members and loved ones, we all like to show off a little with our large food spread and perfect decorations. We also like to make sure our kids are not significantly worse off in the gift department than their friends. Avoid accumulating too much debt over the holidays just to impress those around you.
Try to find a happy medium where it’s clear you’ve made an effort but aren’t forgetting the true meaning of Christmas.
- Sell Your Junk or Work Overtime
Another way to ensure you have enough money for the holidays is to work overtime in the weeks prior (if you have that option) or sell some unwanted belongings in a yard sale, on eBay or a local Facebook group.
By following the above tips, you should be able to stay within your budget this holiday season, reduce the associated stress, and focus on what it’s all about – spending time with loved ones and having fun!
Author Bio: Brian Loman is a longtime blogger, with a particular passion for health-care and finance. He also blogs about lifestyle and a range of other topics for a number of websites. He currently writes for DentalWorkCash, where he shares his knowledge on dental care financing.