Budgeting can be hard but budgeting around the holidays is even harder.
There are so many unexpected costs that come up and people you’ve forgotten gifts for or to send cards to. Not to mention the Christmas and holiday parties, whether you’re hosting or not they can be expensive.
This year my family and I have done a few things differently to make the holidays a little bit easier on all of us as well as shift the focus away from all the gifts and consumerism and put the focus back on the holiday and what is really important.
A bit of a disclaimer though…
Not all of these will work unless everyone is on board. Making changes or trying to implement new holiday traditions is not always easy if everyone isn’t on the same page. A lot of the changes we made this year only worked because everyone agreed that the consumerism and the cost of gifts is just getting out of hand and extremely unnecessary.
Tip: Draw Names or Set A Budget or Both!
My family is doing both of these awesome tips this year. My side of the family drew names for just the adults as well as set a budget for the adults and the kids. My in-laws have decided to set a budget this year and for the kids we’ve said only one gift each but no budget and homemade or second-hand gifts were more than welcome.
This tip can be altered in a few different ways depending on the dynamic of your family. There are only three grandchildren on my side and just our two kids on my in-laws side so having just the adults draw names and set budgets worked well for us. If your family is just adults, games like Secret Santa or White Christmas could work well.
Tip: Plan Your Spending
Once you set a budget for how much you can afford to spend over the holiday season the next most important step is to allocate where all that money will go. This is important so that you don’t over spend and have to rely on credit cards or a line of credit to pay for your holiday expenses.
There are quite a few budgeting apps and websites out now, my favourite being Mint. However for my day to day budgeting I’m old school and like to use Numbers (or Excel). A simple spreadsheet is all you need to calculate money coming in and where it needs to go.
Here a screenshot of the budget I’ve set up for my fiancé and I this Christmas.
The important thing to remember about using an excel style budget is that it is an active document. Its not a list you make, tuck it away and hope that everything works out. You need to check it frequently. I suggest reviewing it (or even printing it out) before you go shopping and update what you’ve spent once you get home.
Tip: You Don’t Need To Spend Your Entire Budget
Something I think people forget with budgets is that it’s just a budget. Just because you’ve set out to spend X amount of dollars on your holiday shopping doesn’t mean you have to spend that full amount. Along with setting a budget, I also like to create a list of gift ideas within that amount that each person would enjoy. Once I know what I would like to buy each person and how much I can spend, I do some research and try to find the item at the best price and hopefully under budget.
Tip: Skip the Expensive Wrappings and Ribbons
I think wrapping paper is one of the easier areas in which to save money around the holidays.
The first thing you can do is use recyclable bags instead of wrapping paper and save them for future years. Another option is to wrap gifts in newspaper or recycled paper instead of the non-recyclable kind. Same with bows and ribbons. Each time you receive a gift, keep the bows to re-use.
If going the paper route, I like to dress up the gift with twine and fresh flowers or leaves to make it look a little more unique.
These are just a few tips to get your holiday shopping started on the right foot and out of debt. The holidays should never be about how much spend or what lavish gifts you buy for your friends and family. The holidays should be about love, kindness, and spending time with people you love. Cheesy, I know, but its true.
If you have any other amazing tips to share please post them below in the comments!
Jenny / Life with Kidds