Do you want to budget for the holidays this year and stick to it? Here are the best ways to budget for the holidays and make everyone happy, including yourself!
The holidays are coming closer and closer. It can be a time of financial stress and worry for many, while it should be about fun and happiness.
The spending that comes with the holiday season is what can make it stressful. To help you take the stress away, you can make your budget for the holidays and stick to it. It will help you reduce stress, keep you from spending on things you don’t value, and prevent you from taking on any additional debt.
9 Ways To Stick to Your Budget For The Holidays
With these nine budgeting tips, you will create a budget for the holidays that you can stick to. You will even have money left when Thanksgiving and Christmas are over.
Let’s get right to it!
1. Set Your Spending Limits
First things first, you need to know how much money you have to spend. In the ideal world, you want to cash flow this entirely. If you need to, dip into your emergency fund, but try to avoid debt where you can.
Check your holiday sinking fund or start to plan for your holiday expenses. If you’re early this year, you can start building up your cash before you’ve made your gift list. If you’re not, check if you can save some money over the next couple of months.
Besides, it is always an option to take a couple of under-the-table jobs. Especially if you find that you need money now, it is a great option. Another option would be to start a side hustle. A couple of things you can try for fast cash are:
- Earning free gift cards that you can use to buy gifts with
- Filling out surveys to earn gift cards and cash
- Other jobs where you can work from home are data entry, testing websites, and proofreading. All of those pay decent money, so you may want to check them out.
- Something that pays good money, especially if you count on the fact that you will get tips on top of the regular payout, is delivering food or delivering groceries.
Okay, now you should have been able to set your spending limits. Plus, you can stretch your spending limits by taking on any of these jobs.
When you add that all together, you have the money you can spend on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday that you celebrate.
2. List Your Expenses
After you have decided how much you want to spend, you can decide what you want to spend.
Many people wonder why there is so little money left in December because they aren’t accounting for all their budgets.
To make sure you don’t forget anything, list your expenses for:
- Gifts – list everyone that is getting a present this year. Include small gifts for stocking stuffers, gifts at work, and anything else you think you need.
- The costs of shopping, including gas and parking.
- Decorations – know how many holiday decorations you want to buy. Include candles, a Christmas tree, and lights to brighten up your home.
- Greeting cards that you want to send out this year, including postage. Don’t forget to include shipping for gifts you send out to people who don’t live in your area.
- Wrapping paper isn’t super expensive, but it’s still wise to budget for it. Include ribbons or bows if you enjoy using them. Try minimizing wrapping paper by using papers, magazines, or reusable gift bags.
- Travel expenses can be high when you’re visiting your out-of-state family. When you’re driving, make sure to include gas. When you’re flying, make sure to keep the flight ticket’s cost as low as possible.
- Food and drinks can be a significant category that is easy to forget. Budget for holiday dinners, holiday parties, or any treats that you plan to give.
- Clothing is something that some people will need to budget for. While you can probably make do with what you have, there may be occasions where you want to buy something.
- Charitable donations are essential for many people around the holidays. Be kind to others and give to your favorite causes. While you probably account for donations in your monthly budget, many want to donate extra in December.
It’s a long list of things you need to budget for. When you’re done, check if you’re not missing anything.
3. Decide Your Priorities
Now that you’ve made a list of your expenses, it may occur to you that it is a lot. The list is long, and it seems impossible to cover everything.
Set your priorities and make sure that you cover the things that are most important to you. Number your priorities from high to low and evaluate your list.
Notice where your highest priorities are, and start fitting these items into your budget. For example, when wrapping paper and greeting cards aren’t important to you, give them less budget than your gifts.
When you decide where your priorities lie in terms of the holiday, you will budget more accurately.
4. Give Every Dollar A Job
Now that you have decided what your priorities are, give every dollar a job.
It means that you know how much you can spend on every gift, so you have a specific goal when you shop. Try to take a close guess, so you don’t have to adjust as much.
When you’re done with your list of priorities and have allocated dollar amounts to all the items on your list, let’s go and add these up.
5. Adjust When Needed
When you’ve added up all your spending, don’t be shocked by the amount. In 2019, consumers expected to spend $942 on Christmas gifts alone. Add travel costs, food, decorations, donations, and you are spending a whole lot of money.
If you’re over the total spending limit you set in step 1, see where you can adjust. Assess your priorities in step 3 with your budget in step 1, and you will probably get close to your final budget.
Cutting back on holiday expenses is hard, but when you’re thinking about which priorities you have, it will probably work out. Try to cut down bigger costs and see if that gets you closer to your goal.
If there is no room left in your budget, try to make or save some extra money. You can:
- Resell items for profit. Whether you’re looking into something like retail arbitrage or flipping items, there are plenty of items that you can resell to make some extra spending money. Here are the best things to flip for profit.
- Save extra money. Saving extra money can be made by planning things around the holidays that don’t cost any money, like this list of best things to do with no money.
6. Make A Shopping List
Planning is a great idea if you want to save money. Make a shopping list for every individual with a couple of potential gifts within your price range. It’s a great way to stick to your budget for the holidays.
You don’t have to get every gift on your list in detail. However, it can be convenient to know what you want to buy and what kinds of stores you need to visit.
If you have a hard time coming up with a gift, here are sample gifts for women who have everything.
7. Start Early
Plan ahead for any sales that are coming up. When you plan your purchases, you can save money on your gifts during the holidays.
When you want to save money on your holiday spending, try shopping online. You can take advantage of Black Friday sales and will get free shipping with many online shops.
You will be surprised by how much money you can save by getting gifts early on. The closer you get to the holidays, the fewer deals you will find. Plus, the stores aren’t as crowded as they are in December.
8. Track Your Spending
While it’s not the most exciting thing to do, track your purchases.
As you start shopping and buying gifts, keep track of your spending. It will make sure you stick to your budget and makes it easier to adjust.
Some people swear by having cash funds for their holiday purchases. You spend only the money you have in cash, and you can’t get an overdraft on that. While it may work for some, it won’t work if you are shopping online.
Shopping with a debit card or reloadable prepaid card may be the solution to this. Know how much balance you have on your card, and you know how much money you can still spend.
Personally, I like a good old spreadsheet. Put all your expenses in one overview, and you’ll know exactly how much you have left to spend.
9. Try Secret Santa
If all else fails, try Secret Santa. If you’re with a large group of family and friends, Secret Santa can be an alternative that will appeal to many.
Instead of buying everyone a gift, each person buys a gift for one person within a budget. There are many websites that we’ve used in the past with friends or family for Secret Santa. You can put in your name and even what you would want to get.
That way, you don’t have to buy gifts for everyone, and you get what you want.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just give it a try!
Did you try to budget for these holidays? How did it work out for you?
Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.