The holidays are quickly approaching. Not only are the holidays a busy time full of fun, family, and traditions, but it can also be an expensive time! You've got gifts to buy, extra food for holiday meals and parties, Christmas cards (and stamps). If you don't have a budget for your Christmas shopping, it's very easy to go into debt over the holidays.
Here are some ideas for how to budget for Christmas shopping so that you can have a debt-free holiday:
- How Much Cash Do You Have to Spend? – Hopefully you've been saving all year for your upcoming Christmas shopping. But, if not, you'll need to examine your bank accounts and budget and determine where you can save to add money to your Christmas budget. If you really can't find cash anywhere, you need to think creatively for how you can earn some extra money. Do you have anything you can sell for some cash? Could you take a seasonal position as a second job to earn some extra money?
- Make a Gift List – Make a comprehensive list of everyone you need buy gifts for. If your list is longer than your budget, you'll need to make some hard choices. Either cut the amount that you plan to spend per person, or consider cutting some people off your list. Could you do a gift exchange where everyone draws a name and you buy for just a couple of people rather than everyone? Could you cut the adults in your family off the list and just buy for the children? Can you make some gifts? Remember, thoughtfulness counts for more than the expense of a gift.
- Determine How Much to Spend on your Holiday Dinner and Parties – Figure out what your menu will be for any parties or dinners you're hosting and determine the cost for all supplies. If the expense is expected to be higher than your budget, you can check out these ideas for hosting a holiday dinner on a budget.
- Don't Forget Everything Else – Besides gifts and foods, don't forget to factor in any additional holiday costs like Christmas cards, stamps, and travel. Those thing might be relatively small, but they can add up.
- Stick to Your List and Budget – This one's really important – make sure you only buy for people on your list and stick to the budgeted amount. If you go over by “only” $5 for all 10 people on your list, that's an extra $50!
- Shop for the Best Deals – Once you have your budget and some ideas of what to buy, there's nothing that says you have to pay full-price for your gifts! You can check out all the Black Friday deals or save money by shopping at Amazon.
- Focus on Memories – Christmas is about much more than just the gifts. Take time to focus on spending time with friends and family creating memories.
- Save for next Christmas as soon as this one is over – If you were scrambling around to find money to pay for this Christmas, you might want to think about starting your savings for next Christmas as soon as this one is over. It's a lot easier to come up with the money over the course of a year rather than in a month or two.
What about you? How do you budget for Christmas?