How To Set A Holiday Budget You Can Stick To

Creating A holiday Budget.jpg

Setting a budget can be one of the most overwhelming things there is.  Setting a holiday budget is even worse!  With all of the expectations, we have on us during the holiday season it can be something that you might want to just forget about and then worry about the bills later.

In this post, I’m going to be sharing how to set a holiday budget you can stick to.  It is important to set a budget that is realistic or else you are just going to set yourself up to fail before you even start.

I do know how hard it is to set a budget and that’s why I put together a pretty cool freebie that you can download and use.  My hope is that this freebie will be one less obstacle that is standing in your way so you can get out of Christmas without accumulating debt and not have to worry about eating or paying your electric bill.

I’m going to be sharing the steps I take to set my budget and the categories I use.  This way I’ve found makes it a little less overwhelming and a much easier to stick to.  

So let’s get to it!

How much can you spend?

The first thing I need to know is how much you can spend.  You cannot have a successful budget without this.  

The best way to do this is to take a look at your monthly budget (if you have one) then see if there’s any extra money each month.  If you are living paycheck to paycheck and do not have any extra at the end of the month, then you’ll need to trim some spending.

If you don’t have a monthly budget, take a look at your spending habits for each month.  Do you accumulate money each month?  If not, where can you trim your spending?  Fewer times eating out?

Try to find ways to trim your monthly spending to give yourself a dollar amount on how much you can spend.

Track all spending

Next, you’ll want to track all of your spending, every penny.  You cannot stay on budget if you are not accounting for all of your money.

What I like to do is have a sheet that I write down what I spent, add the category, and how much it was.

This is a simple way to track everything and know exactly where your money is going.

This is key to staying on budget, promise.

Create a complete gift list

Who do you need to buy gifts for?  Do you have holiday parties that you’re attending?

It is important that this list is complete with everyone you need to buy for.  This includes holiday cards, postage, gifts, gift wrap, tape, etc.  You do not want to leave anything out.  If you do, you run the chance of going over budget.

Once your gift giving list is complete it’s time to figure out who’s getting what.  

What I like to do is have a list of who I’m shopping for and what they’re getting.  The simplest way to do this is to draw a line down a piece of paper and then write the name of the person on one side and then what they’re getting on the other.  If you can, add the price to complete the process.

This will create your gift list which can be an overwhelming task to complete.

Be clear with expectations

Feelings can get hurt, expectations can be overdone.  If you trying to get through the holidays without debt and you want to be smart with the money you are spending then it might be a good idea to sit your family down and let them know that you are working off a budget this year.

Another thing that can blow a budget up is buying gifts for everyone in your family.  Maybe you draw names or only give gifts to the kids.

In our family, the grandparents only shop for the kids.  The adults don’t exchange gifts at all.  We get together for a big meal and enjoy each other's company.

Since we started doing that, it makes the holidays easier and our budget smaller.  Both my husband and I have 2 siblings each and they are all married with kids.  So we ended up spending more on our extended family then we were on our own family.

Then after Christmas is over we end up with WAY too much stuff.  So instead of teaching our kids, that Christmas was all about what they are going to receive we taught our kids the true meaning of Christmas and stopped spending so much on presents.

If this is new for you, sit your kids down and let them know what they can expect from this Christmas, you’ll be surprised by how receptive they’ll be.  

Then talk with your family.  You’ll again be surprised by how receptive they’ll be because chances are, they’re feeling the same way.

Shop sales only!

Seriously everything is on sale this time of the year so the chances you’ll be spending full price for something is quite slim.  

When your list is complete it is time to start shopping all of the sales.  A few places to track sales are:

  • Slick Deals
  • Black Friday Deals

  • Coupons At Checkout (Chrome extension)

And of course, make sure stores price match.  This will help you save time on your shopping if you can find everything at one store that price matches.

Now that you know how to organize your shopping and how to save some money, it’s time to put this budget together.  This can be an overwhelming task and I’m going to walk you through the categories I use that make putting a holiday budget together with a little less overwhelming.

My categories:

  • Food

  • Gifts

  • Parties

  • Decorations

  • Cards

  • Other

The food goes for the “main” meal when I have my family over.  This could be Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, etc. depending on your family.  This also includes cookies and baked goods that we will enjoy.

Gifts are all gifts that are given.  This includes homemade gifts, white elephant gifts, co-worker gifts, and gifts for friends and family.  If someone is receiving a gift from us, it falls into this category.

The party category is our yearly holiday party that we throw each year.  So this includes food, entertainment, etc.  I added this because it was impossible for me to stay on track with Christmas Dinner and our holiday party.

Decorations wear out and need to be replaced.  It never fails that there’s a string of Christmas lights that need to be replaced.  So this is a set dollar amount that I use to replace any decorations that need replacing.

The card category is a little wonky because I add postage to this category.  So included is all of the holiday cards I mail out plus postage for the cards and any gifts that need to be mailed out.  Since I do a lot of holiday shopping on Amazon I don’t need to add too much since I just mail gifts directly to their home (and with Prime, that means free shipping!)

Then there’s an "others" category.  This is anything else that I didn’t think of when I set my budget.  I like to have a little bit of a cushion so I don’t go over.  Sometimes this is “extra funds” for other categories or this is used for travel that we weren't expecting.  Every year the other category is used for different things.

So by putting together a holiday budget from the beginning, it will help you control your spending.  It can be really easy to go overboard when it comes to Christmas and if you aren’t tracking every dime you are spending you can see your budget spiral out of control.

In conclusion...

Those $1, $3, $5, and $10 transactions add up and if you’re not tracking them, your budget will be blown.

Hopefully, the tips that I shared in this post will help you set a holiday budget that you can stick to.  Remember to create a realistic dollar amount that you can afford and talk to your friends and family about everyone’s expectations because they might be in the same boat as you when it comes to spending.

If you’d like an easier way to set your budget you can check out my Holiday Survival Bundle.  Inside the Holiday Survival Bundle, you’ll receive a complete holiday planner that will organize every area of the holidays you’ll also receive video tutorials and 6 homemade holiday workshops.

By setting a budget, becoming organized, and making a few handmade gifts you'll be able to stay on budget and save money this holiday season.

I want to thank you so much for stopping by.  I'd love to know in the comments below, what type of things have you tried in the past to create a budget that you can stick to?  

I've added a few posts that I thought you might enjoy.

Jenn