One of the key elements to enjoying a stress-free and organized Christmas is to plan a Christmas budget and stick with it. Here are four tips to help you:
1. Create a Budget
Yes, it’s kind of a no-brainer, but you can’t stick with your Christmas budget if you don’t have a budget in the first place. Take some time to look over your bank account and the money you have available, and the money you’ll have coming in over the next week or two (if any), and decide what is a realistic budget amount to set aside for Christmas.
If possible, only budget money you already have on hand, not money you are expecting to get in a paycheck soon. That way, you’re not banking on being able to spend money you don’t already have.
We typically start planning for Christmas spending halfway through the year. Since we use a cash envelope system, we just start socking away most of our gift cash for Christmas. In addition, we also save up our Swagbucks Amazon gift cards to use for Christmas presents. And I keep my eyes open for other ways to earn free gift cards or products that would be good for gifting.
By the time December rolls around, I usually have a nice stash of gift cash plus gift cards to use for gifts and this becomes our Christmas budget. By doing it this way, we don’t have to dip into any of our savings or other money to pay for Christmas–we just have to plan ahead and then look for deals to stretch that money as far as possible.
2. Make a Plan
After you get your Christmas budget created, sit down and make a list of everyone you need to buy Christmas gifts for. There’s a free printable Master Christmas Gift list here you can use to keep track of everyone you plan to buy for and what you’re planning to buy. If you prefer to keep a running total on a spreadsheet, you can download the Excel Christmas Budgeting Worksheet here to help you stay organized and stick with your budget.
3. Use Cash
If you’re at all tempted to go over your written Christmas budget, I highly recommend that you have a cash-only Christmas. Take the money you’ve allotted for your Christmas budget out of the bank in cash and then only use that money to pay for your Christmas gifts. This will force you to carefully evaluate each purchase to make sure it is the best use of your money and it will guarantee you don’t go over-budget.
Since many of the best deals are online, I suggest that you either use Paypal and refund the money to your bank account immediately from your cash envelope or take money from your cash envelopes and purchase gift cards for your online purchases. This is a bit more of a hassle, but it means you don’t have to worry about any staggering credit card bills come January!
4. Keep It Simple
Christmas should not be about impressing people with expensive gifts. If you’re going to give someone a gift, do it to bless them. Meaningful gifts don’t have to be extravagant and costly. Consider giving experience gifts or handmade gifts as opposed to high-dollar items. Sometimes, the most remembered gifts are those that took time and thought, not money.
What are your tips and tricks for sticking with your Christmas budget? I’d love to hear!