Christmas expenses can get out of hand in a hurry! By December 26, chances are you feel like you have just hemorrhaged money for the last month. Because… well… you have. Christmas and it’s associated events are EXPENSIVE. And if you don’t plan ahead for those expenses, you can set yourself up for a rocky financial start to your new year. In an effort to help you not feel that despair and stress that comes with your December credit card statement, I’m going to share what I think is the smart way to budget for Christmas.
Budget – The Smart Way to Budget for Christmas
First and foremost, you need to have a plan. Above ALL else, for the love of Christmas and Baby Jesus, you need a plan. Start with figuring out your budget. Whatever your budget is, that’s what we need to plan around. If your budget is $1,000, then you need to make everything on your list work within your budget.
Make sure your budget is realistic and thorough. It needs to include each and every holiday expense you even THINK you might incur. Give it a name and a line item in your budget. The more the better. That way there are fewer surprises that could pop-up.
Budget Items to Include:
I’ve compiled a list of items to account for in your Christmas budget. Some of them are the obvious mainstays, and then there are some items that most people forget and get blind-sided with each year. Most people just budget for gift-giving and move on. And that’s where you blow your budget every time if you don’t prepare for all the other items you end up spending money on each Christmas Season! Here’s a post about keeping your Christmas spending in check.
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Obviously, you have a gift list you will need to shop for to buy gifts. That’s the easy part. We know that’s coming. Make your list, set a budget for each person and shop away. I like to keep a running list in Microsoft Excel for gift reciptients, and I add in my budget there, as well as what gift I gave them the last few years, so that I can keep track.
Make sure part of your gift list includes a few line items for unexpected gifts. There’s always going to be a person or two you forgot to include. OR someone that gives you an unexpected gift and you want to reciprocate. (I always get a few sets of nice chocolates when I’m shopping. And that’s my go-to gift to give in that situation. And hey – if you don’t use them… you can EAT them!)
Christmas Cards with Postage
You may want to send out Christmas cards. If you want the kind with professional photographer pictures, you’re going to have several expenses to account for in your budget. Your photography session, the cost of having the cards printed, shipping and then postage once you mail them.
Holiday baking can be expensive! All the ingredients for your baked goodies plus containers to put those goodies in (if you are giving them away) can get expensive in a hurry. That’s not even counting if you want to try new recipes. Or if you need new kitchen gadgets, like a cookie press or something!
Fun Christmas Baking Gadgets to Try:
- Christmas Silicone Cookie Stamps Set
- Wilton Preferred Press Cookie Press
- Stainless Steel Christmas Cookie Cutters with Comfort Grip
- Christmas Cookie gift boxes, fold-able with holiday designs, set of 12 boxes
I like to buy a special ornament each year for each of my kids plus me and my husband. And depending on which store you are shopping at, it can be QUITE a running investment! (I’m l
For whatever reason, stocking stuffers always
If you plan to make any donations around the holiday season, you’ll want to account for those in your budget as well. If you are able, awesome. If not, no big deal. There will be years later on down the road when maybe you can make a donation. Don’t sweat it. But do plan for it if you are going to incur this expense!
The postman, UPS guys, doormen, hairdresser, babysitter, etc. I have to say, I don’t tip anyone. Unless you live in a doorman building, I think Christmas tipping might be a thing of the past.
However, I do put out a basket of bottled water and some wrapped candy or muffins thanking them for making my shopping easier!
I’m big on decorations and I’m big on Christmas. There is always something that catches my eye each year, and I’ve learned – just budget for it. Our kids are little, and now’s the time for big Christmas décor. They love it – and I do too. So I add an extra $100 onto the Christmas budget to allow for adding in a few new decorations.
Are you hosting a meal? A party? Those plans need to go into consideration too. Hosting a meal for the family or friends can easily cost you $100-$200. Hosting a holiday party can run you way more! And by all means, go ahead, holiday gatherings are what it’s all about! But just don’t let you budget get sidetracked.
And if you aren’t the one hosting, you’ll be
Do you have guests coming to stay with you for the holidays? Keep that in mind in your budget too. You’ll be feeding more people breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as keeping them entertained. It’s worth putting a line item in the budget. And if you are the ones that are the guests in a home, you may want to budget for offering to order in a meal or providing entertainment as a thank you for the hosting.
Are you traveling for the holidays? Is there airfare involved? What about hotels? Lots of people will overlook this little, but crazy expensive, item in their holiday budget.
Make sure to leave some room in the budget for any Christmas entertainment you want to participate in. Is there a play you want to see? Is the Nutcracker Ballet coming to town? A new Christmas movie to take the family to? A Christmas Lights Festival to attend? Do as much or as little as you want. Just make sure to account for it in your budget planning.
Don’t’ forget you need all the wrapping supplies! And those are not cheap! You’ll need wrapping paper, gift bags, bows, gift tags, scotch tape and scissors for sure.
And definitely don’t forget if you need to ship your gifts! That can be expensive too. Make sure you ship them in plenty of time that you don’t end up having to pay for overnight shipping. That can get crazy expensive in a hurry.
I love beautiful wrapping paper. It’s a weakness. And I love when everything coordinates and comes in a set. And is reversible?! I cannot even! Here’s a few of my favorites for this season:
- Hallmark Reversible Christmas Wrapping Paper Set with Ribbon and Gift Tag Stickers
- Christmas Wrapping Paper Set | Kraft Gift Wrapping Paper with Reversible Designs
- Rustic Paper Bags Snowman Reindeer Santa Owl Sock Tree Gift Bags
- Christmas Drawstring Gift Bags Set
Do you get everyone matching pj’s each year? Or add a new book or board game to the family collection for the season? Just remember to add this to the budget as well. Some of these traditions can be quite the expense.
I love a good Christmas story. They just warm the heart and are just the perfect sentimental item to add to your Christmas traditions. Here are a few of my favorite Christmas books, good for ALL ages.
- The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (my ALL TIME favorite)
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (picture book edition)
- The Polar Express
- How The Grinch Stole Christmas
- The Gift of The Magi
- Merry Christmas, Stinky Face
Family Matching PJ’s
- Christmas Family Matching Pajamas Set Santa’s Deer Sleepwear
- PajamaGram Holiday Grinch Pajamas Soft – Family Christmas Pajamas Set
- Our Family Pjs Christmas Family Matching Santa Red Pajama Sets
Fund the Budget
Now, you have your budget outline and all the expenses in order. You’ve got your number of what you want to spend. Now the big job… actually FUNDING the budget.
I prefer to save all year long for Christmas expenses. That way it’s not a big hit when the shopping and spending start. I just take whatever my budget was for the previous year, divide it by 12, and that’s how much needs to be saved each month to get you to a full Christmas fund by December 1.
That method also comes in handy, because if I get a great gift idea or find a great sale, I’ve got a little Christmas money in the budget just sitting there. That way I can go ahead and purchase the gifts whenever I come across them, and maybe stay a smidge ahead of the game.
Where to save your fund
I just keep my Christmas budget saved up in my checking account. If you prefer to separate it out, there are lots of banks and credit unions that have Christmas saving accounts. You can allocate a certain amount that you want to have transferred into that account each month, and then withdraw the funds at Christmas time. Or if you get an extra windfall of cash you can always deposit it into your Christmas savings account.
Ok, so now you’ve set your budget, and saved up your Christmas fund. Now, the fun part! Actually getting to spend the money. This is where my absolute nerd alert comes in. I love to track my expenses as I go so I know exactly where I am all the time in my budget.
Deals, Deals, Deals
I love it when I can actually beat my budget and save some money. And sometimes this requires waiting a bit and holding out for the best deals. There are always some great deals online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And then throughout the first few weeks of December. You can end up getting free shipping and a lot of percentage off but waiting out the sales and keeping a sharp eye out.
Give More for Less
Watching out for the sales gives you the chance to either save a little money on the budget or give a bigger gift than you might have been able to. For example, I probably wouldn’t walk around giving Instant Pots as gifts to everyone for Christmas, since they run you about $100. But if I snag an online deal on Black Friday and they are $30? Instant Pots for everyone! It’s all about watching for the sales!
I know I’ve saved a TON of money on picture gifts with Shutterfly and Walgreens pictures by waiting it out and getting the best deal possible on calendars and photobooks.
Wrap Up – The Smart Way to Budget for Christmas
So, to “wrap” this up (get it! Wrap! Christmas! HAHAHAHA! I crack myself up…), Christmas spending can get out of hand and break the budget if you don’t make the appropriate plans. All the little expenses can really add up quickly and before you know it, you’ve blown way past your budget, and you are spending your holiday season stressed to the max and worried about money. Give this way of Christmas planning and budgeting a try this year, and above all, just keep shuffling!
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