I never fully appreciated the stress of the holiday season until l had kids. I remember our first Christmas together very well - mostly because I was so unprepared for everything. For those who don't know, I adopted all three of my children at the same time, so I went from a low-key Christmas with no children to creating Christmas traditions for a family of 5.
I waited until the last minute to shop, and the stores were sold out of a lot of stuff. I was worried that if I ordered gifts online, they wouldn't come in time. We got through it, but it definitely was not one of our more graceful holiday seasons. That's a picture of my three kids from our first Christmas together below.
The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year with family pressures and financial pressures. Between the gift-giving, entertaining, travel, and the regular monthly expenses, it all adds up to an expensive time of year!
When you budget for the holidays early, you'll have a handle on your holiday shopping and spending throughout the season.
There are so many benefits to budgeting for the holiday season. First, you'll avoid overspending, which will keep you from playing "catch up" when the season ends. Second, you'll reduce financial stress throughout the holiday season, which will make the experience more enjoyable for you.
A couple of simple budgeting practices during the next few months will have a positive impact on your holiday spending, which can help to prevent you from going overboard or becoming overwhelmed.
When working on a holiday budget, starting early has its advantages. The more time you have to get your shopping done, the more time you have to comparison shop, shop sales, and look for deals. Avoid leaving your shopping until the last moment; otherwise, you'll likely pay higher prices and spend more time feeling aggravated in the lineups.
Determine how much money is available for you to spend based on your current financial situation. Be realistic with your holiday spending budget, regardless of how much or little you can play with. This is your spending limit, and your goal is to stay within it.
Remember that your expenses must be less than your income. There's no need to get into massive credit card debt because of the holidays. You can always save a little bit of money throughout the year if you want to go all out at holiday time.
Making a detailed list is essential for saving money on Christmas gifts. List everyone that you need to buy a gift for so you can create a realistic plan to accommodate your gift-giving needs. Keep everyone in mind, including family members, friends, and anyone else you want to give a gift to, such as neighbors or other acquaintances.
Create a basic budget worksheet on paper or your computer. List every gift recipient in one column. Create a column to brainstorm ideas, a column for your planned budget for each recipient, and a column for how much you actually spent on each person. Track overall budget and actual spending as well to see how you do at the end.
Make changes to your budget whenever you overspend on one person, so you stay within your budget overall. In other words, if you overspend on one person, lower your budget for the others on your list.
Try to set realistic budget amounts for each of the recipients on your worksheet to minimize the need for edits to your spreadsheet, but don't be afraid to make changes as necessary.
Giving gifts to your neighbors, your children's teachers, and service providers like the mailman is a sweet sentiment, but not necessary. If your budget cannot support your list of recipients, trim the list!
Consider giving stocking stuffer type gifts to these recipients if you insist on giving them something for the holidays. Small gifts, inexpensive homemade gifts, or simple greeting cards are just as sentimental and memorable but will not break your budget.
It only takes a few simple changes in your spending and budgeting habits to improve your holiday shopping experience. By starting early and following a plan, you can overcome the obstacles of holiday shopping, budgeting, and spending with ease.
Enjoy your holidays without a credit card debt hangover in January!
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