Budgeting for Christmas

by Lexi Reprogle

“Christmas is just around the corner!” Does this phrase elicit anxiety and happiness at the same time for you?

Start to picture the tree and the lights glittering through the ornaments. Waking up to the snow on Christmas morning. The presents wrapped under the tree. Red and green wrapping paper….wait the presents. What presents? Oh yes, those presents. The ones you’ll rush around trying to find, paying excessive amounts in shipping fees and even more for matching wrapping paper and bows. And every year you tell yourself the same thing, “I went too far again.”

Here’s to another year of trying. Maintaining that fine line of allowing the holiday magic to absorb you but not your bank account. So, just like Santa Clause let’s make a list and learn how to budget for the most wonderful and exhausting time of the year.

Step 1: Create a list of every possible item you pay for during the holidays.

Some of these items might include the following:

  • Gifts for family members, friends, co-workers, etc.
  • Wrapping paper, tape, scissors
  • Christmas dinner and baking

The list could go on and on which is good, try not to leave anything out. Think back to the last few years. What all did you buy? What caused you the most anxiety? Was it the gifts or Christmas dinner? This list will be different for everyone but the act of writing it down will help to paint a clear picture of what to expect this coming season.

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Step 2: Give each of the item on your list above a maximum price.

And we mean maximum. Be realistic. If you would like to set a price limit of $300 for gifts but you know you spent at least $1,000 last year, $300 is probably not going to be accurate and you’re going to overspend. It may help to set a limit of $600 and take away from another section such as wrapping paper. Instead of buying the expensive heavy duty paper, find some that will get the job done.

For Christmas dinners are you buying most of the food? Are there items you could request family members to bring? If you pride yourself on preparing the feast, no problem! Just lower your maximum price in another category. Set realistic goals for each category even if you don’t like the final number. It is important to see how much we spend during the holidays because most of the time, it’s more than what we can really afford. This brings us to our third and final step.

Step 3: Start Budgeting/Saving Early

How many times have we all waited until the end of November before we start thinking about Christmas? This leads to the weeks leading up to it rushing around and spending whatever our last paycheck was just to make sure we have a perfect holiday.

The best way to budget for Christmas is to know what you are planning on spending before you go out and spend it. By saving a little each month you can have your Christmas budget in place before December rolls around.

Here are a few ideas you might consider to save some extra money for Christmas:

  • Set up a direct deposit from each paycheck into a Christmas Savings account. This will keep the money out of sight, out of mind!
  • Do you go out for lunch a few times a week or buy coffee every day? Try packing your lunch for the next few months and making coffee at home – deposit the money you would normally spend on these items into your Christmas Savings account.
  • Last minute garage sale – before it gets too cold, plan a sale and designate all of the money you make to go towards your Christmas fund.

If you set your list and your prices and start saving in the months leading up to Christmas, you just might actually be able to enjoy it.

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Step 4: Plan for Deals

The best part about saving early is that when all the great deals roll around during November, you are ready to take full opportunity of them!

Whether you are staying home or braving the crowds, keep the following suggestions in mind.

  • If you are going Black Friday shopping, have a plan in mind of what it is you’re going to buy. This will give you time to look around at other stores to be sure you truly are getting the best deal.
  • Do not wait until Black Friday to start looking at deals being offered. According to thebalance.com most stores offer their best deals before Black Friday.
  • Do you buy most of your gifts online? Great, there are still deals that you can look into before Cyber Monday. Online sales are actually the best on Thanksgiving (thebalance.com).

Lastly, the most important thing to remember during the holidays is that you are spending it with people you love. They are not concerned with the presents you buy them or the food you cook them. Instead of stressing about the details that no one will remember, focus on your best memories of Christmas. Most people do not remember what gifts they received on Christmas morning when they were kids but I’m sure we remember how we felt and the traditions we all celebrated. This is what the holidays are about, this is why they bring us so much joy. Let’s try to remember that going into the Christmas season this year.

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