Financial pressures of the holiday season are often overlooked, but can be extremely stressful. Giving gifts, traveling, and hosting family and friends in addition to monthly expenses can add up to make it an expensive time of year! By making a budget for the holidays early in the year, you can prepare in advance for holiday spending.
Keeping a budget during the holidays has many benefits. First, you will avoid overspending which means you don’t have to play “catch up” for the whole next year. Second, you will reduce financial stress during the holidays so you can enjoy everything wonderful about it.
A few simple budgetary practices during the next few months will have a positive impact on your holiday financial stress and will help prevent you from going overboard.
Try these holiday budgeting strategies to ease financial stress during an expensive time of year:
1. Make a budget
Look at your current financial situation and determine how much money is available for you to spend. Be honest with yourself about holiday spending regardless of how much or how little you have to spend. Stay within your goal.
∙ Your expenses must be less than your income. There is absolutely no reason to take on debt during the holidays.
2. Make a shopping list
List everyone that you need to get a gift for and create a realistic amount for each person. Keep everyone in mind beyond just family members. Friends, coworkers, and neighbors might be on the list as well.
3. Create a budget worksheet
Either on paper or with a computer, create a basic worksheet. List every recipient in one column, put gift ideas in another column, and lastly add in your planned budget. Then track what your actual spending turns out to be and compare to your goal.
4. Tweak when necessary
Make changes to the overall budget if you overspend on one person. Take care of the most important people on your list first, so you don’t have to skimp on them later.
∙ Being realistic about the budget for each recipient on your worksheet will minimize the need for edits.
5. Prioritize and cut if necessary
Gifts for neighbors, the mailman, school bus driver, and your children’s teachers is a nice sentiment, but not necessary these days. If your budget cannot support your entire list of recipients, trim that list to the bare bones!
∙ If you insist on giving absolutely everyone a gift, consider giving homemade gifts or small stocking stuffer type gifts. Small gifts from the Dollar Store, homemade gifts, or even simple greeting cards are both sentimental and memorable but without breaking your budget.
6. Start early
When working on a budget, starting early offers a definite advantage. The more time you have to get your shopping done, the more time you have to comparison shop, shop sales and look for deals. Avoid leaving your shopping until the last moment, otherwise you’ll likely pay higher prices and spend more time feeling aggravated in the lineups.
It only takes a budget and a few simple changes in your spending habits to improve your holiday shopping and gift-giving experience. Start early and follow a plan. This way you can overcome the burden of holiday shopping, budgeting, and spending with ease.