Tips for Holiday Budgeting

This post originally appeared when I guest posted on Julie’s blog Vylette. Read it here and then check out her blog for great design, DIY and travel ideas. She’s an amazing friend with a beautiful eye for design and aesthetics. So if you want to re-decorate or just look at some pretty pictures, she can accommodate all of it.

It felt like with Halloween every year comes the overly ambitious retailers who put out their Christmas stuff super early to remind you that December is still two months after October. And with that comes a LOT of spending. Black Friday is called Black Friday because of the amount of goods retailers sell is often enough to pull them from the proverbial red to black. Seriously. That’s a lot of money spent.
And you are target number one to all the marketing ploys. Which is why most people walk out of the holidays with their credit cards smoking and dazed look on their faces saying, “What just happened?”
What happens is the retailers play on your emotions and get you to spend more money. Sappy Christmas carols, large displays of Santa’s workshop and fake indoor snow are all to remind you of nostalgic, beautiful times so you’ll spend your money trying to hold on to that feeling.
Now all that makes me sound like a Scrooge, but no one does Christmas more than me. I LOVE Christmas. I have a huge Christmas Eve party every year. Even doing the play adaptation of A Christmas Carol for four years has not shaken my good cheer. I just love this holiday.
And it became especially clear that I did three years ago when the above-described consumer turned out to be me. I was still recovering from leaving a job that made me question my self-worth and went all out with Christmas gifts. Come December 26th, my credit card bill was at $1200 and I spent the next year diligently paying it down.
So, how can you avoid being that person? Follow these easy steps:
1. Set a budget.- I know, I know. EVERYONE says this. But here’s how you do it and make it work. Look forward to December at what your cash flow is going to be like. Will you have more money available because you get more overtime? Are you expenses lower because Mom and Dad come to visit and buy you groceries? If you have extra money lying around, here’s your budget. If you don’t, you need to come up with a savings plan now and stick to it. Think saving $5 every other day from now until Christmas. That’s $135. Adjust according to your overall budget if you are able to save more.
2. The next step in creating your budget is to write down everyone you want to buy a present for. Rank them in order of who you want to spend the most on. Yes, this means ranking your loved ones, but I always want to spend more on my boyfriend than on my siblings as they do with their spouses. Include in this the annual Christmas parties you go if you plan to bring a hostess gift, and any office presents you give out.
3. Now, determine how much you want to spend on them based on how much money you’ll have available in December and your savings plan.  Adjust either the savings plan or the amounts as necessary.
4. Now keep an eye out for good deals. Only have $20 to spend on Mom this year? Join a website like Coupon Cabin, or local group buying deals like Groupon, Living Social or Amazon Local to find deals that are deeply discounted. And if Mom lives in a different area subscribe both to your area and her area to see what’s out there.
5. Don’t forget to include yourself in the budget. I love getting fancy coffees on my breaks in between Christmas Carol shows and have to budget accordingly. Also, I like a massage in the middle of the month since performance weeks are rarely less than 12 performances a week. This helps me stay happy and sane and not punch out Tiny Tim.
And remember, the holidays are about family and friends more than anything. I have a hard time remembering some of the gifts I’ve gotten but never forget the food, the conversation and the weird experiences with Uncle Bob. Keep that in mind when you’re elbow deep in whatever this year’s Tickle-Me-Elmo is.
Happy Holidays!

This entry was posted in budgeting, cash flow, expenses, financial planning, personal finance, saving. Bookmark the permalink.

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