It’s already the end of October, which means if you haven’t started thinking or planning ahead for the holiday season, you might want to start!
I love the holidays (all of them!), and I honestly do try to keep them as simple as possible (this year more than ever before). However, part the the whole “holiday experience” is all the crazy family parties, food, gifts, school programs, traveling, hosting out-of-town guests, more food, decorations, and did I mention food?
While we try to keep the real reason for the season foremost during this busy time of year, I have to admit that I do really enjoy most of the holiday busyness. I love having all our family around, I love thinking of and finding gifts I know people will want and use, I love doing lots and lots of holiday baking and cooking, and I love decorating our house.
However, all of that costs money.
It costs money to buy gifts, to travel to and from parties or out-of-town relatives, to buy food, to find that perfect decoration, to buy festive holiday clothing, etc.
Even if you’re a frugal person like myself, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up spending more money over the next 2 months than you normally would without all the holiday festivities.
That’s OK, as long as you’ve planned ahead and have the extra money to spend… so let’s start planning!
Here are a few of my tips to stay on budget throughout the holiday season.
1. Make a holiday budget.
I don’t expect that you’ll be able to do all the extra holiday stuff on your normal monthly budget, so it’s a good idea to look at your bank account and figure out just how much money you have to spend on holiday things.
Everyone’s budget will be different, the point is that you have a budget (and that you stick to it). Also, as you plan ahead for NEXT year’s holiday season, it might be wise to put a little money aside each month — starting in January already.
2. Figure out what you need/want to purchase.
- What gifts will you need to purchase?
- Will you need to do any traveling?
- How much extra cooking/baking/grocery shopping will you need to do?
- Will you need special clothing for any holiday parties?
- Are you buying the turkey(s) this year?
- Will you buy a fresh Christmas tree or use a fake tree you already have?
- Did you want to purchase any other specific decorations?
- Are you planning any special events/vacations for your family/children?
Write everything down so you can see exactly what you need and/or want to purchase this holiday season. It might also be helpful if you write WHEN the items need to be purchased by and approximately HOW MUCH you think they will cost.
3. Get creative.
Go back over your list above and then look at your budget. Realistically, is there enough money to cover everything?
If not (and there’s a good chance it won’t be enough!), you’ll have to get creative and figure out how to make your budget cover everything you need and want to buy.
Here are a few ideas to cut costs:
- Make some of your gifts/decorations instead of buying them
- Stock up on holiday baked goods and ingredients when they go on sale
- Buy used (but still in good condition) gifts, decorations, clothing, etc. — I might be weird, but I’m not opposed to used gifts, especially for kids.
- Shop online (Craigslist, Ebay, Overstock, Amazon) to find better deals on everything
- Ask a friend, family member, or neighbor if you can borrow a specific article of clothing, decoration, kitchen utensil, etc. — I’ve borrowed and lent out SO many different items and saved so much money (and storage space) in the process!
4. Use cash.
Even though I don’t personally use an all cash budget, I do know that using cash is a fabulous way to stay on budget… especially if your budget it tight!
So if you’re worried about going over budget this year, I’d highly suggest using an all-cash budget. Figure out how much you have to spend on gifts, decorations, food, travel, clothing, etc. and put that amount of cash into an envelope (or on a pre-paid gift card — like Visa or American Express).
Once the money is gone, you’re done shopping!
5. Do without.
I know this isn’t necessarily the most fun option, but if buying the perfect turkey, tree, decoration, cheesecake, holiday outfit, or toy for your child is going to push you over budget, I can guarantee it’s not worth it! And 3 months from now, when you’re paying the bills, I’m certain you’ll be glad you didn’t go over budget too.
Keep in mind that although holiday festivities and traditions are fun, they are not the real reason for the season… and they certainly aren’t worth going in debt over or causing needless financial strain for your family! Doing without something — even if it seems important now — is always the better option.
We’re planning to stick to our relatively small holiday budget this year… and hopefully you’ll be able to do the same by implementing these tips!