I really can’t believe it’s already time to start thinking about Christmas! It’s always made me crazy when stores have Halloween and Christmas decorations out at the same time. But this year I’m determined to get a jump on shopping so I’m not scrambling around the week before Christmas trying to figure out gifts for my family.
Every year it seems that The Mister and I talk about making (and sticking to) a budget for Christmas and it never really materializes. Then we end up spending way more than we should and have to keep money tight for the next couple of months to make up for it. Well, this year, we’re already being tight with money and trying to get my student loans paid off, so a budget is a necessity.
Today we’re going to talk about making a holiday budget without wanting to pull your hair out. And I even have a couple of handy little budget worksheets you can print out and use for your own holiday budgeting needs! So follow along with these 7 (hopefully painless) steps to creating your holiday budget.
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1. Decide on your overall gift budget
The first thing you need to do is decide on your overall gift budget. I am specifying gift here because you probably don’t want to factor holiday food or decorations into this particular budget. Those can be different conversations for a different day. If you’re married, this decision should be made with your spouse.
Take a look at what expenses you know you will already have over the next couple of months and take those into consideration. This step should not turn into a week-long discussion. My advice would be to shoot low if you aren’t sure how much you will have available for gifts.
2. Who are you buying gifts for?
Next, you will need to decide who you are buying gifts for. This is usually the part where I start feeling light-headed when I realize how many people we need to buy for. Use the planning worksheet to start your list. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- teachers/people at your child’s school
- mail carrier/paper delivery person
Lately our extended families are getting so big that we draw names or we do a Dirty Santa type game so each person only brings one gift and leaves with one gift. That has really made those family gatherings less stressful! And really, once you’re older the gifts aren’t really the reason you enjoy getting together at the holidays anyway, right?
3. Set a budget per person
So now that you’ve figured out who you need to buy for (and I’m sure that list will change as you remember more people), it’s time to set a budget per person. With the Dirty Santa/name drawing methods of gift-giving, there’s usually a set amount that you will spend (like $20-30), so those are easy.
You’ll also want to think about how many gifts you plan to buy for each person. For example, we will probably get our daughter a few more gifts than my brothers (sorry guys), so we need to make sure that our budget reflects that.
4. Brainstorm gift ideas
Now that you have your list of people to buy for and a budget for each person, it’s time to have fun and start brainstorming gifts! Think about if you will get each person one larger gift that costs more or if you’d prefer to split the money you’ve budgeted for them up into a couple of gifts. Write down your ideas on the planning worksheet with a ballpark guess of how much each item costs. This doesn’t have to be exact numbers, you’ll look at those in the next step. Having a ballpark estimate will just give you an idea of what you’re working with.
This is a good time to start asking people what they want. Be prepared that many of them might not have given any thought to Christmas yet and won’t have any idea what they want. And if your family draws names, that’s probably not something you’ve done yet. My family usually draws names at Thanksgiving, so just keep that spot blank in your budget for now.
5. Be on the lookout for sales
For the next month or so, keep your eye out for any of the gifts that are on your list. If you’re buying thing year’s “big thing” you might even consider buying it now before the angry mobs come out. For some reason “Tickle Me Elmo” comes to mind. Does anyone else remember when that was the toy that every child in America seemed to want for Christmas and parents were going crazy trying to find them? Well, don’t get stuck in that position at the last minute. It may not be on sale this early, but if you can find it at a reasonable price, it might be worth it to bite the bullet to make sure you have it.
As we get closer to Thanksgiving you’ll start getting Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads. Look through them closely to see if a gift you’re planning to buy will be heavily discounted. I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper, but if something on my list is on sale, I might just have to wake up early and go fight the crowds.
Another way to keep an eye on the gifts you’re planning to buy is watching Amazon. I did the majority of my Christmas shopping online last year and it was a lifesaver with a baby that I really didn’t want to get out in the cold and crowds. We have Amazon Prime, and I can assure you, it paid for itself during the holidays. (Now, to answer the question burning in your brain, yes, I’m an Amazon Affiliate and yes, I do get a small commission when people use my link to purchase from Amazon, but I’ve been a happy Amazon Prime customer for a few years now, and I’d be singing their praises from the rooftops even if I wasn’t getting paid.) If you’re hesitant to sign up for a whole year of Amazon Prime, click below for a FREE 30-day trial and see what you think!
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6. Buy the gifts!
Now that you’re scoping out deals, it’s time to buy your gifts! Make sure to check off each gift purchased on your budget worksheet so that you can keep up with who you still need to buy for and what gifts you’ve bought online you’re still waiting for. This section is pretty self-explanatory. Buy your gifts!
7. Keep up with your budgeting worksheet
Finally, make sure you’re keeping up with your budget. Enter how much each gift actually cost so you can keep yourself on track. Also make adjustments where needed. Let’s say you find a great Cyber Monday deal on one of the gifts you’re buying for your husband and you ended up being $30 under budget for that gift. Score! You can either put that $30 toward another gift for him or toward a different gift that might have cost a little more than you were planning for. Or, you could even get crazy and save it or use it to buy a gift for someone in need!
Here are the goodies I promised you! Click to download the holiday gift budget planner and budgeting worksheet. Print as many as you need for your family and get to work!
I hope this has been helpful for you and that having a plan in place will make your Christmas merrier! If you have any other ideas for budgeting for the holidays make sure to leave them in the comments!