Budgeting Tips for a Joyous Christmas and Holiday Season


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holiday season budget tips
Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, so it’s almost time for Black Friday deals and the rush to officially kick off the Christmas and Holiday shopping season.

I’m not sure about you, but for many, including myself, this can be a time of year for financial stress.

To help alleviate that stress, I want to review some strategies I’ve learned over the years to help you better manage your finances for the holiday shopping season, so you can focus more on the joy of Christmas and the Holidays, and less on your finances.

1) Evaluate Your Overall Financial Situation Early in The Year

Throughout the entire year, I’m constantly evaluating my overall finances. I’m reviewing my progress toward my goals and asking myself questions like:

  1. Are you meeting your goals for saving money and paying off debt?
  2. Did you get the increase in income that you wanted?
  3. Do you have any big purchases to make this year, which purchases will affect how much money you can set aside for savings or paying off debt?

For myself, after working and being on my own for over 20 years, I’m fortunate to be somewhat financially established where my debt payments are manageable and I can set aside some money for retirement and an emergency savings account.

No matter if you are able to meet your financial goals or not, you need to budget your money accordingly.

So for your holiday spending, make no exception. Throughout the year as you plan, make decisions to delay purchases for yourself, if it’s non-essential, and put that money towards a special account for your holiday spending.

Once, you know how much money you will have to spend on the holidays, the next step is to create a holiday shopping strategy to make the most of your budget.

We’ll discuss more about strategizing a holiday budget later in this article.

2) Create a List of People To Buy Gifts For

Below, I want to share with you a favorite holiday budgeting strategy I’ve used over the years to maximize my holiday spending.

You create a list of people you’d like to buy a gift for, such as friends, family members, co-workers, and your significant other.

Now as you review this list, ask yourself an honest question, do you really need to buy this person a gift?

You’d be surprised just how many people on your list would be fine with not exchanging gifts with you because they have a similar financial problem as you; they have a tight budget too.

In fact, a lot of people you were planning on buying gifts for were probably not even thinking about exchanging gifts with you, so if you buy them something, they might feel obligated to buy something for you too, creating stress on their finances.

So do yourself a favor and really ask yourself, do I need to buy this person a gift, or would a simple Christmas Card and simply saying “Merry Christmas!” do the job instead?

After you have narrowed down your list a bit, start thinking about a maximum price per gift for each person. The price point per gift can be different for each person, depending on your relationship with them.

Typically I end up spending the most money on a gift for my significant other, or my parents. Then I have an equal amount that I’ll spend on each of my friends and close family members.

3) Start Looking For Deals and Comparing Prices Early

To get the most out of your Christmas and holiday budget, start comparing prices and looking for deals in mid-November, about two weeks before Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

This way you have plenty of time to figure out which stores will have the best deals!

Where I live and do my shopping, whether it’s online or in the store. I utilize Amazon, Target, Walmart, Ross, TJ Maxx, and small stores that are local in my town, either at the local mall or downtown.

After I’ve researched my gift ideas (items), where to purchase them, and found out which store has the best deals at which time, I’ll go ahead and start buying my gifts.

Typically, I find the best deals and selections, one week before Thanksgiving, until about mid-December.

As you make your purchases, keep in mind that you also take advantage of utilizing cashback and rewards programs that those various stores might offer, as well as on your credit card.

If you use a credit card to purchase gifts, make sure you pay it off right away! You do not want to carry expensive credit card interest payments for Holiday presents, it’s not worth it!

Lastly, as you are shopping for other presents, avoid buying anything for yourself, no matter how impulsive the purchase may feel. Have discipline!

4) Other Creative Ways to Save on Holiday Expenses

There are a lot of ways to save money on holiday expenses overall.

Instead of buying gifts, you could craft some gifts for people, such as making Christmas/Holiday Ornaments or Candles.

One of the most thoughtful holiday gifts I ever received was a Christmas Scented Candle. I still have that candle btw, and I burn it every year for a week, between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The candle reminds me of the special friend who gifted it to me.

If you are not good at hand-crafting your own items, make sure you check out a site like Etsy, there you’ll be able to find hand-crafted Christmas gifts at an affordable price.

Host a Potluck Style Dinner For Your Christmas and Holiday Parties

If you are hosting a holiday dinner, make it potluck style so you are not the only one paying for the whole dinner bill, which can be very expensive.

A potluck-style dinner can work great for Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s!

Something to think about: If you have someone who is not excited about the idea of a potluck style dinner, no problem, encourage them to host the holiday dinner themselves, this way you’ll be able to enjoy the dinner without the expense or added time hosting it!

5) Organize a Gift Exchange With a Group Of People

One sure way to save a lot of money and time from shopping is to do a gift exchange with a group of family members, friends, or co-workers. Gift Exchanges have gained tremendous popularity over the years.

A gift exchange is when you get a group of people together and you buy a gift for only one person in the group. You decide who to buy the gift for by picking a name out of a hat.

In most cases there will also be a price limit on the gift decided by the group. This way no there is no pressure to go beyond one’s budget.

What’s great about a gift exchange is that you only have to shop for one gift! You save money and lots of time.

If you want to make the gift exchange a bit more fun and casual, you can also put together a “White Elephant” Gift Exchange.

A White Elephant Gift Exchange is where you don’t pick names out of a hat. Instead, everyone who is participating buys a random silly gift at a fixed price, usually no more than 30 dollars.

You’ll wrap the gift to make it look nicer than it is, then bring it to your gathering or party.

You will then place it under the Christmas tree or the location of the other gifts and receive a number. (If numbers are not given out, sometimes you can just write names down too.)

Then at some point during your party, you’ll get the group together and start drawing numbers.

As each number is drawn someone will pick and open a gift for the group to see.

Then someone else will draw a number, that person can then either keep their gift or put it back and steal your gift, forcing you to pick and open a new gift.

As the group continues drawing numbers, stealing gifts can happen usually once or twice per gift until the last number is drawn.

Clearly getting your number picked last is an advantage because you would have seen all the good gifts ahead of time, that you might want to steal from someone else!

6) Set Up a Special Christmas Savings Account For Next Year

If you don’t mind putting some money aside early for your next year’s holiday spending budget, you could open a Christmas Club CD Savings account at your local bank.

To see an example of how one works, check out this bank’s offering which I found through a Google search.

Mountain America Credit Union Christmas Club Certificate

As of right now, the example I share above is paying 5% and says you can contribute money to it monthly. Then on November 1st, it converts to a normal savings account that you can draw your money out of and go buy your Christmas gifts.

Final Thoughts

I hope you got some ideas from this article on how to make your holiday spending a bit easier, not only for your pocketbook but for your mind too.

Proper planning and financial budgeting will allow you to buy your gifts, feel good about them, and be relaxed during the upcoming holiday season.

Remember, evaluate your next year’s budget early, and start saving early for the holidays. Track spending easily with an app if you need to.

Also, think about side hustles to get extra money for the holiday season as well. If you have a hobby you can turn into a side hustle, even better!

Over the years of writing on Money and Bills, I’ve shared my hobby with my readers, which is flipping under-priced antiques and collectibles on eBay or Craigslist for a profit.

Flipping items on eBay is a great side hustle, for building up your holiday savings account fast.

I hope this article helps you this holiday season, cheers!

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