Does Christmas roll around and leave you scared and overwhelmed about the money you end up spending? For so long, I had such a love-hate relationship with this holiday. I loved all of the celebration but hated ending up in debt in January. Creating a realistic budget for Christmas now will make December so much more fun!
Here are a few tips to put you on the right track.
It’s super important that you take a hard look at your budget BEFORE you starts making lists of all the things you want to buy. Instead of figuring out how much money you need to have the Christmas of your dreams, you need to figure out how much money you can realistically spend without going into debt.
Use your Good Life Monthly Budget Plans for the next few months leading up to December to see how much money you can budget for Christmas. If you don’t have this cute little printable, you can subscribe to the newsletter and get instant access to the entire free resource library. Just click here! You might want to check out Take the Headache out of Budget Planning if you need tips on the whole budgeting thing.
Basically, you need to find out what your income will be between now and Christmas. Then, subtract your expenses from that amount and you’ll have a good idea of how much money you’ll have available for the holidays.
Don’t you love a good list?! Making a list makes me feel calm and in control of almost any situation. Having a visual reference for all of the things helps to keep you sane and focused.
Gifts. Make a list of each and every gift you will be giving. Don’t forget teachers, coaches and hostess gifts.
Food. Now create a list of all of the meals you will be responsible for. Family get togethers, church suppers, open houses, etc. What about the cookie exchange?
Decorations. Every year I say I’m through buying Christmas decorations…but every year I buy more Christmas decorations! Be sure to include gift wrapping on this list.
Travel. Will you be taking any holiday trips? Include details for each.
Here’s the tricky part: making the budget and the lists go together. My initial list usually way outdoes my budget! Break it down step by step.
Gifts. Prioritize is the keyword here. We make our kid our priority. Her gifts come before everyone else. We plan to spend about one-quarter of our gift budget on our daughter and split the rest up evenly-ish on everyone else. We usually spend a little more on parents than we do on our siblings, etc. Plan to set aside about 60-75% of your total budget on gifts, depending on your other needs.
Food. Here’s a good chance to save a little. You can make fantastic holiday meals on a budget if you don’t fall into the trap of needing to make a show-stopping meal. I love to cook and tend to go way overboard in this department but I’ve been so much happier since scaling back. Not only is it easier to make a big pan of lasagna for Christmas Eve, it’s way cheaper than roasting an expensive cut of meat. Here’s my Christmas Eve menu. Spending 20-25% of your holiday budget on food is to be expected.
Decorations. Do you really need anything new? If you’ve been doing Christmas awhile, probably not! Assign 5-15% for decorations and gift wrap.
Travel. This is a wild-card category and I’m not assigning a typical percentage here. You typically don’t have a lot of wiggle room on a travel budget, so this may have a big impact on your ability to spend in other areas. If at all possible, plan for holiday travel way in advance and budget accordingly. We’ve always said we wanted our baby in her own bed Christmas morning, but everyone is welcome to come to us, so we don’t have any travel expenses.
Sitting down now and setting realistic expectations for the budget for Christmas will make the holiday itself so much more enjoyable! Remember that the amount spent on a gift does not equate with the amount of love you’re giving and that expensive gifts rarely make people more happy than thoughtful, less expensive ones.