Holiday Budgeting Hacks
The holidays are meant to be magical and full of joy and cheer. However, they can also be expensive, which makes them a stressful time of the year for many people. There’s a lot of pressure to buy the best gifts, take pricey trips, and cook extravagant meals, and all of that adds up fast. That’s why it’s so important that you build a holiday budget.
Budgeting for the holidays can make or break the entire experience. It allows you to know what you’re spending and feel more comfortable as receipts start to stack up. It will also help ensure that you are able to prioritize and buy the things that are most important to you. Here are our steps for building a holiday budget:
1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
The earlier you start planning and budgeting for your holiday gifts, the earlier you can start saving. If money is tight already and you wait until the holidays are upon you to start allocating funds, you may not be able to save enough for everything you’d like to buy. Buying presents slowly can be financially easier on the wallet since it spaces out expenses too. Plus, there’s a higher chance that you can make use of a good sale if you start shopping before the holiday season kicks off.
2. Decide How Much You’ll Spend
The next step is going to be to set a budget. You’ll need to do this whether you decide to start saving for the holidays two weeks before Christmas or six months ahead of time. However, what your precise spending limit will be is going to depend on several factors, including how much time you have to save up. If you want to go all out for the holidays, it’ll quickly become important that you start budgeting early.
However, if you do wait to begin, the most important thing will just be setting a realistic budget for yourself. You need to think about what you can comfortably be able to spend on gifts, decorations, seasonal experiences, etc. Make sure you don’t stretch yourself too thin and that you only allow yourself to use money that you can actually afford to spend.
3. Decide Where the Money Will Go
Once you have a budget, it’s time to allocate the funds so you know in advance how you’re planning to spend your money. This is an important step because it’s going to ensure that you’re able to keep things on track and not spend more than you budgeted for. A good strategy is to break everything down into categories, such as presents, travel, decorations, etc.
From there, you should assign a fraction of the overall budget to each type of expense. By making multiple smaller budgets, you’ll be able to avoid going over budget altogether. If you don’t take this step, it’s easier to spend everything on presents or trimming the tree and have nothing left for charitable causes, the holiday meal, etc.
4. Track Your Spending As You Go
Once you’ve begun shopping and spending, you’ll need to log the flow of money. Even if you are only buying things that are budgeted for, unexpected expenses can pop up, so it’s vital that you watch what you spend. If you don’t keep track of how much you’ve already paid from your budget, you may not realize that you’re over budget, which can be a really frustrating and financially dangerous situation to be in.
5. If You Do Go Over-Budget, Don’t Despair
Perhaps you miscalculated the cost of a gift, travel plans changed after buying plane tickets, or something needed to be replaced. Whatever the reason, sometimes you wind up going through your budget sooner than expected, and you may still have things on your list to buy but lack the funds to purchase them safely.
The good news is that there are a few great strategies that can help you cut costs, make some quick cash, or otherwise get back on track. These include:
- Cut Spending Elsewhere – If you have any fun money in your regular budget, you may be able to give up some things (temporarily). This can go a long way toward ensuring that your holiday budget has enough room to accomplish everything needed to make the season special. So if you buy a coffee on the way to work each morning or see a movie every weekend, you may need to make a pot at home or stream something from your couch for a few months. It’s not fun to give up these kinds of expenses, but they can add up and aren’t strictly necessary, so they present a great opportunity to add to your holiday budget.
- Sell Things That You No Longer Need – Do you have a garage full of old clothing, books, workout equipment, electronics, etc., that you don’t use? If so, you may be able to use these items to inject some quick cash into your budget. There are tons of websites and apps that make selling your things very simple. Alternatively, you can try a consignment store or a pawn shop. No matter which method you use, this can be a wonderful strategy to help ensure you can still have the holiday you’ve dreamed of.
- When in Doubt, DIY – ‘Doing it yourself’ is a good technique to cut the costs of your holiday budget and help get things back on track. There are tons of ways that you can spend less by putting in a little extra work and making something yourself. Decorations are a particularly great place to substitute some crafted alternatives. Instead of buying decor from a store, you can make your own! There are other areas where you can DIY as well, such as holiday greeting cards, gift wrapping materials, or even the presents themselves. If you’re a crafty person, the possibilities are endless.
- Pare Down The Scale of Celebration – Finally, you might need to temper your expectations a little bit. The most important part of the holiday season is spreading joy and spending time with your loved ones, so don’t be too bummed if you can’t afford every experience or gift that you’d like to buy. Focus on the most important things and people and try building memories with free or low-cost activities. As long as you share the spirit and are together with your family, you’ll have a lovely holiday.