How To Plan And Keep A Christmas Budget
If you're like me yesterday you wrote out the date and realized oh, December, I need to go Christmas shopping! In the past I've blamed my lack of timely Christmas shopping on the fact that I was usually still finishing classes the first two weeks of December which left me and every other college student with absolutely no extra curricular activities.
However, seeing how I've been graduated for a couple years now I can't really use that excuse anymore. I'll have to think of a new one. Perhaps something about saving kittens, everyone loves kittens.
Either way, if you are just now starting, or are just now scrambling to finish up before the crowds really start flocking to the stores, I've got a few tips to help you stay in budget this year without sacrificing people's feelings.
How To Plan And Keep A Christmas Budget
Start with a plan!
I always make excel spread sheets for Christmas buying. Call me a geek but I like knowing exactly how much I'm spending, who I'm buying for, and what I'm buying them. Plus it helps me to know what I've gotten them in the past and not repeat gifts. Even if it is not an excel spreadsheet any place you can keep track of all those things will be extremely helpful. So, make a plan!
Choose Your Budget
First write down a total amount you don't want to go over for Christmas! DO THIS FIRST! Before you write any names, any ideas, anything! Decide a total you are willing to spend and can afford!
Now, write down all the people you are going to buy for. Go through all of your "groups", (work, family, friends, church, etc.) and try not to forget anyone. (You don't want to have to add them later and mess up your budget!) Make sure to also write any gifts you'll have to buy for a party, like a secret santa, or a white elephant gift.
Next decide what you want to spend on each individual or couple. It helps to decide in groups, especially for big families or in instances where you have to buy for a group of people. For example, for my four older sisters I usually decide an amount that I'm willing to spend and try to keep each of their gifts under that amount. That way the gifts are all "worth" about the same.
I also do a somewhat pyramid type of spending. For example, I will probably spend the most on my significant other, after that probably my parents, then comes my close friends and sisters, then my nieces and nephews, (because lets face it, your gift will most likely be in next years Goodwill pile no matter how cool it is, don't break the bank on it) and then finally people that I want to get a little something for but can't necessarily drop a twenty on all of them. (That is usually when I opt for chocolate candies, mugs, or lotion, all those things that are fun to open but don't cost a lot.)
It looks a little like this ::
Plan The Gifts
After I have an idea of what I'm going to spend I start writing down ideas as to what that person would like and what would work with that budget. Sometimes I Pinterest some DIY gifts, sometimes I think about things they might have mentioned recently, or what they themselves are pinning on Pinterest!
If all else fails and I know they are not going to ask for something outside of what I can afford I'll shoot them a text asking. I like giving gifts that people actually want and wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves. So just asking them ensures that they will love the gift!
Now the easiest step to say and the hardest step to do.
Don't go over that budget.
I know it is the season of giving, but you can't give away your bank account or go into debt for it. The idea is that you set the budget first, then go into all those stores and attempt the crazy with your list and budget right in front of you!
Trust me! You will thank yourself later!
Now, because I like you all, a few bonus "do's & don't's" to keep a Christmas Budget ::
- Compare last year's gift with this year. You don't need to top anything.
- Compare what they always get you. All budget's are different. If they want to spend that much or that less on a gift that is their choice. Spend based on what you can afford and what you want to do.
- Feel guilty and start buying for other people other than on your list.
- Start buying for those you forgot and go over budget. If you didn't remember them the first time are they really expecting a gift from you? If so and you really just spaced them, then adjust in other areas to accommodate that extra gift, don't just add more money to your budget!
- Buy everything on your significant other's or children's list. I did this one year out of just wanting to give but ended up going almost $100 over. I still regret it! Choose a few items from their list and stick with those.
- Shop last minute. I'm talking like week before. I know we've all done it for that last gift. But that "last little gift", most likely sets you over budget because you just want to get in and get out so how much it costs starts to get lower on the priority list. Make a plan, shop early.
- Take your list aka, "plan", everywhere this time of year. You never know when you will start shopping or see something someone will like. Keep it in your purse or on your phone digitally and keep track of what you got and how much you spent. The moment it's not with you is the moment you start "guessing". We all know how that can end up.
- Hand make some things. Now before you roll your eyes and start telling me how you are so not "crafty", hand made doesn't have to actually be made by your hands. Buy a dozen mason jars, some holiday candy, and some ribbon and you have gifts for your coworkers. Hand made is basically being "crafty" in how you spend your money. Again, Pinterest is a goldmine for those ideas.
- Use cash. I'll be honest I'm not good at using cash. But in my defense I'm good with not over spending so I give myself a break by not going the Dave Ramsey way. However, if you have a hard time not spending all the money in your bank account, I would recommend getting the total amount you want to spend on Christmas out of the bank in the beginning and then start your shopping with it. You'll learn budgeting really quick when you are running out of money with a lot of gifts on your list still!
Phew! Sorry that was a lot I threw at you! But you can bookmark this page to come back to throughout December if you feel like you need a little pep talk or tough love!