The act of creating and maintaining a household budget does not rank high on the fun scale. From debits and credits to line-item entries, finding the time and discipline to record every expense can be downright tedious! The fun part comes later, when you have money to spend on the things you want for the Holidays.
Financial discipline doesn’t have to be fancy. Most people use the standard line-item spreadsheet to create their family’s monthly budget. A maximum allowable expense is set for each item. When the time period ends, actual expenses are entered in a new column to determine whether the household is over, under, or on budget. The standard advice is to review one’s budget monthly but weekly or quarterly budgets are fine, too.
Be as specific as you can. Details help to paint the overall financial picture of your household. For example, instead of a line that says “utilities,” list each utility payment to help keep finances on track.
Creating a budget takes discipline, but the real benefit happens at the end of each spending cycle. The calculation and discussion of each item will help to illuminate each expense and encourage family members to control costs.
Software and Apps
Handwritten or electronic spreadsheets (like Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets) are great for tracking expenses. Some savvy savers like to use an app that links to bank accounts for real-time tracking. Quicken and Mint are popular options that offer a range of financial management tools.
Some of the major Holidays that find their way into budget discussions are Halloween, Thanksgiving, the Eids, and the Decembers (Christmas, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, and many more). There is so much to celebrate! Translation: there is so much to buy. Yearly traditions like festivals, dinner parties, costumes, gifts, and all the other trappings that accompany Holiday celebrations cost money. Even though the spending is seasonal, the related budget line should stay put year-round. Keep Holiday expenses on your budget as a line item each month, even if you don’t plan to host a party or buy gifts until a future date.
How Much to Budget
There is much variability here. Following are national averages for several of the major Holidays.
- Halloween – The average cost is $102.74 per household. (source: https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1012/how-much-americans-spend-on-halloween.aspx) with $10B predicted total in 2021 for all households in America – The highest ever! (source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/275726/annual-halloween-expenditure-in-the-united-states/)
- Thanksgiving – According to the Farm Bureau Survey in 2020, the average cost to purchase the ingredients for a Thanksgiving feast was around $50, or $5 per person. With inflation at around 4% in 2021, Americans can expect to pay more for turkeys and fix’ns. (sources: https://www.fb.org/newsroom/farm-bureau-survey-thanksgiving-dinner-cost-down-4 and https://www.marketwatch.com/) Also, remember to budget for the cost of travel (if applicable).
- December Holidays – Experts predict record growth for Holiday spending in 2021. Christmas gifts alone cost households an average of $1,000+. Also plan for travel, decorations, and extras at the grocery store. As with other seasonal line items, a good budget recognizes these items as a year-round expense. Save early and often to avoid a money crunch in January! (sources: and https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-13/mastercard-sees-holiday-spending-reaching-record-on-7-4-growth and https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1112/average-cost-of-an-american-christmas.aspx)