The holidays are a wonderful time of year that can be stressful with the looming fear of possibly spending a small fortune on gifts and other holiday expenses. If you’re worried about your holiday budget and overspending, rest assured that you’re not alone — but also know that you don’t need to go into debt or overspend to make the holidays special.
Here are 10 budgeting tips for creating a holiday budget to help limit stress, keep spending under control and maximize merriment.
1. Set a Spending Limit
This is perhaps the most important of many budgeting tips you can use to keep your holiday budget on track. Before you begin shopping, determine what your holiday spending limit will be. You don’t need to factor in what you’ve historically spent, what others spend, what you feel is expected of you, or anything other than what feels appropriate to you to spend on the holidays this year.
2. Be Realistic with Your Holiday Budget
Just because one of your siblings, parents, or friends always gives the fanciest presents in no way means you need to max out your budget in return. The holidays aren’t a competition and you’ll only add to unnecessary stress if you view them that way. Determine a realistic budget based off your spending limit for gifts, treats, and holiday events. Whether your limit is $50 or $5000, choose something that works for you and stick with it.
3. Ask for Wish Lists Early
If you wait until the last minute to complete your shopping, you’ll set yourself up for failure and probably stretch your holiday budget. Ask for wish lists early and don’t procrastinate on shopping.
This way you’ll have time to search for deals, eliminate the stress of last-minute shopping, and make sure you are able to budget everything out in time.
4. Take Advantage of Cyber Monday and Other Sales
With your spending limit, budget, and wish lists in order, you can take advantage of all the pre-Christmas holiday sales. Cyber Monday is one of the best! If the Black Friday lines aren’t for you, focus on Cyber Monday and don’t leave the comfort of your home.
5. Use Discount Tools
There are discount codes, tools, and apps you can use when making certain online purchases to save money. Honey is one of the easiest online discount options. Signing up is free and it automatically searches for deals, sales, and discount codes available to you.
6. Set Aside Portions of Each Paycheck for a Holiday Fund
Holiday expenses can seem like a huge hit if you’re not prepared. To make this easier and less like a bank account sucker punch, try putting portions of every paycheck aside in the weeks prior to the holidays. This will help create a holiday fund and make it less of a shock when you start actually spending money on holiday expenses.
7. Track Your Spending
There’s no point in setting a spending limit or creating a holiday budget if you don’t keep to it. Track your holiday spending to ensure you keep to your budget. You can do this easily with budgeting apps. There’s an abundance of budgeting and saving apps available for military families that would be a great help during your holiday shopping.
8. Gift Your Time
Many people don’t need expensive gifts or even material gifts at all. Many people would rather have the gift of time.
Consider visiting your family for a weekend, giving out “free night of babysitting” certificates, or offering to cook a meal or a dessert for someone who needs it.
9. Pay with Cash
One of the best budgeting tips to keep yourself from going into debt for the holidays is to pay with cash. Don’t apply for extra credit cards or max out the cards you already have. Driving up credit cards will only make it more difficult on the other side of the holidays and add stress to the new year. Pay with cash so you can see what money you’re spending and avoid overspending.
10. Focus on the True Meaning of the Holidays
This might sound cheesy, but it’s way too easy to get swept away into the consumer-focused aspect of the holidays and forget what the season is really about. Do your best to focus on what’s important: friends, family, making good memories, and enjoying the holidays. Gifts are only a small part of what makes the season special.
Don’t let holiday spending steal the joy from the season. With a solid plan, you can create an effective holiday budget and stick to it this gift-giving season. If you’re open to alternative gift ideas, invest in your loved ones with time, memories, and experiences.