Now before anyone yells at me for talking about the holidays before we’ve even hit Halloween, just hold your horses and give me a minute to explain. The most common mistakes made when spending money for the holidays is not having a plan and starting too late. So in order to avoid that issue I’m writing this post today to help you get a head start so that when the holidays do come you can enjoy them without worrying about your bank account.
So, if I have your permission, I will continue. ;)
(I’m actually going to continue no matter what, because rebel.)
How To Create A Holiday Plan And Budget
Step 1. Decide amounts.
Now you’ll choose an amount for all over holiday spending that you don’t want to go over. But you will also choose individual amounts for each category. (I’ll give you those in a second don’t worry!) So overall, taking in your bank account balance, compensation, and who you have to buy for, choose an amount that you wouldn’t want to exceed for the holiday spending. Choose an amount that, after all the holidays were over, if this amount was out of your bank account you would be okay.
Now, think about these three categories: gifts, activities, and food and choose an amount of money for each of those categories that you wouldn’t want to exceed. These three amounts will be the total spent out of each category and all three will equal the amount you chose total for holiday spending.
Here are some examples of what that looks like:
If it’s just you and your significant other, perhaps you don’t want to spend more than $300 on all Christmas things. In this instance you might budget $200 for gifts for friends, families and each other, $50 for activities (maybe you go see a Christmas play?), and $50 for food that you have to bring throughout the different holiday parties (just don’t bring fruit cake, nobody wants to be the one to bring fruit cake).
Now, if you have a family you might not be able to afford any more than $500 for the holidays. In that case you might budget $300 for gifts, $100 for activities and $100 for food. Or maybe if you want to do a little less activities you would budget $150 for food and only $50 for activities.
It all depends on your amounts, your lifestyle, and what works for you. But if you choose the numbers before things start getting sentimental or just plain hectic it is easier to follow the plan you laid out.
Step 2. Decide what you are going to do with those amounts.
Who are you going to buy for and what are you going to get them?
Write a list of names of who you are going to buy for. Divide that list of names by the total you want to spend on gifts. That is how you’ll figure out about how much to spend per person on your list. Now of course this is an estimate and you can add or subtract different amounts from different people you know you will spend more or less on. For instance, I typically spend around $5 – $10 on nieces and nephews as they are all under 12 and the toys will be in next summers garage sale. But I’ll spend a little more on my parents who you know, helped create me and all. You know your friends and family and what is an appropriate amount for each person.
What activities do you want to do this season?
Write a list of things you typically take part in and maybe some you want to do this year. Perhaps something your friends always invite you to? Make sure to write how much each event or outing would cost so as to not go over your budgeted amount.
What do you want to cook for your Christmas dinner and/or, what do you want to bring to all of your holiday parties?
If you typically make the Christmas dinner, then plan out what dishes you want to make and how much each of those costs (just estimate as much as you can here). If you only contribute dishes to parties or to others’ dinners then write about how many you attend and divide that by the total budget of food. That will help you figure out how much you can afford to spend on each party dish. Then you can start writing down ideas for that price range. If you are a wonderful human who makes dinner and bring dishes to other parties you’ll want to factor in both to your budget of food.
Step 3. Cut.
- Cut three people (at least).
- Cut one activity.
- Cut one dish.
Cut Three People.
We always add more people to our list than is necessary. Just because someone gives you a gift or gave you a gift last year, doesn’t mean you have to give them one. Accept theirs gracefully and thank them for thinking of you. You don’t have to feel like you need to buy for everyone you know. I can guarantee there are people on your list you don’t really need to buy for. Focus on those close to you that you genuinely want to bless with a gift this year. Save the pity gifts for others to give.
If a gift must be given to (insert person’s name in your family/friend group/coworker that would be obnoxious if you didn’t give them something) then make it simple, cheap (cheap as in low cost, not cheap as in crap, we are decent human beings after all!) and don’t stress about it. If they aren’t happy with it, it just proves they didn’t deserve one in the first place!
Cut One Activity.
As lovely as it sounds to enjoy all the wonderful activities that are in full swing during this holiday season it will also be exhausting. Trying to run around and fit in all the different events and outings available will not fill you up for the season the way you hope. Let’s be honest, when one of those events came around you were most likely going to bail last minute, or worse, go when you really don’t want to because you said you would. Don’t do that to yourself or your bank account. Just be honest with yourself and cut an activity now.
Cut One Dish.
Don’t get me wrong. My mouth savors at the thought of all that encompasses a Christmas dinner. It is all so good. But that is just it. It is all so good, always. You never really find yourself at the end of the dinner when you are unbuttoning the top button of your pants (Just me?) thinking, “You know, it was really missing… (Insert that dish for you that nobody really cares about but because of tradition it is made every time. Mine is sweet potatoes, I know I know.)”
Your dinner will be amazing and mouthwatering and enjoyed by family and friends alike regardless of having everything perfect. There is something you added to your dinner list with the thought of everything being perfect, take it away now. You don’t need one more thing to cook. Not only will everything be wonderful without it, you will also be wonderful without it because you won’t be as stressed or broke. (Okay moving on cause I’m dreaming about green bean casserole now!)
Step 4. Execute.
Once you’ve figured out the budget (amounts) for each category and made sure everything within that category amounted to no more than that budget, all that is left is to execute your plan. Put your budget and plan somewhere where you can see it often (The fridge?) and remember what you are spending money on and what you are not.
Do not get sucked into guilt buying, going, or bringing for any of these categories. The holidays are made to be spent with family not spent with all your bank account. Focus on that fact and your days will be great!