Let’s all sing together, shall we? ♫ It’s the most wonderful time of the year... to make a budget! ♫
I don’t know about you, but that’s my new favorite holiday song. Budgeting and I have not always been buddies. In fact, I have a long history of being allergic to budgets altogether. However, the last few holiday seasons have been super sweet for myself and my family in large part because I’ve implemented a budget each season and committed myself to sticking with it by saving year-round. Even if you have not saved all year, though, you can still create a holiday budget, stick to it, and craft a plan for next year that will motivate you to work at it a little at a time.
Create a Realistic Budget
The most important consideration when beginning any new budget, whether it is for the holiday season or your monthly expenses, is to be realistic. You might not know where to start if you’re new to holiday budgeting, so closely examine2 your spending from previous years before creating this year’s plan. Chances are, you’ll repeat some of the expenses from years past. If you think you spent a bit excessively last year, take that into consideration, but going too far in the opposite direction may be setting yourself up for a failed budget plan. Failing to keep a budget can do damage to your motivation for future budgeting, so try to give yourself a fair shot by keeping it real with yourself as you plan. Once you’ve put everything on paper and determined what is feasible for your financial situation, you can start trimming things accordingly and still enjoy the holidays on a budget.
Whether you head home for the holidays or create amazing memories with an exciting trip, you’ll want to account for all of the possible costs associated with your travels. Airfare or other transportation costs, accommodations, and meals along the way will need separate lines in the budget. If you plan to drive yourself, snacks for the road and fuel should also be part of your budget. Booking travel early is your best bet for savings,1 but last-minute deals can sometimes be scored as well. You can use a site like Hopper to help you track pricing and snag a good deal. When your destination is within driving distance, opting to travel in your own vehicle can help you cut costs.4 If you don’t plan to take your vehicle with you during your travels this year, you’ll want to consider how you plan to take gifts to your destination3 and how you plan to bring them home. This is a commonly overlooked expense that can derail your holiday budget at the last minute.
Experts project spending this holiday season to exceed $960 billion.1 You read that correctly, yes, billion with a b. That’s a lot of money flowing into the economy in the name of presents. For some, gift giving is part of the season, and for others it’s not necessary.2 I love finding the perfect gift for my friends and family during the holiday season. My husband, however, is not a gift person. He doesn’t really like giving or even receiving gifts. He would rather spend time with people he loves or enjoy an experience. Gift giving, particularly as an adult, is a bit of an art. It’s fun to dive in and figure out what someone would love to receive, and it’s equally fun to recognize that someone may not be that into presents and might prefer quality time spent together doing something fun or interesting. This key difference in personalities happens to be budget friendly, too. Once you’ve determined who you want to honor with a gift this season, take into consideration what they would truly love and set a spending limit for each person or family. Like my husband, perhaps taking someone on your list out for a coffee and a walk to talk and catch up would be most appreciated. For those on your list who would appreciate a token of your friendship or love, create a budget for gifting and keep an eye on sales to get the most bang for your buck. You can take advantage of Black Friday1 deals, watch for sales, and even get creative with homemade presents2 using Pinterest as inspiration. Gift cards are a great way to show appreciation quickly and easily if you’re planning to send a gift and do not have the budget to add in shipping costs. Keep in mind that if you receive a gift card you aren’t thrilled about, CheckSmart offers Gift Card Buyback at your neighborhood store.
Beyond traveling to and from holiday celebrations that are out of town, make sure to account for transportation during the season as needed in your own city. In some situations, particularly for safety, you may need to pay for a ride to or from a holiday event. Convenience is another reason to opt for a ride versus driving yourself. Holiday events can quickly become overcrowded and paying for a ride can be a great way to reduce a bit of the stress associated with parking and navigating traffic. If you plan to partake in drinking, of course, planning a safe ride is important. Take stock of the events, parties, and gatherings you plan to attend throughout the season. As you mark your calendar with fun events, simultaneously add the cost of transportation to your holiday budget. Lastly, if you’re flying to a destination for the holidays and do not have family or friends who are willing or able to drive you around, you might want to include a little extra in the budget for a ride here and there.
Holiday Events and Gatherings
No matter which holidays you observe6 and celebrate during the season, you may have a party, dinner plans, event, or other gathering to attend. You’ll want to budget for anything that you may need including an appropriate outfit, host/hostess gifts,5 chipping in for costs, decorations if you’re hosting, or a myriad of other potential expenses. You only have so many days during the holidays, so you likely have plans in place and plugged into your calendar. Review those plans and decide how much you can feasibly budget for each event ahead of time to avoid blowing the budget with last-minute purchases. Kids parties at school can also have a price tag attached, so make sure to check with your child’s teacher(s) to see what is in store celebration wise throughout the holidays. If you plan to host a party or event, food should also be added to your budget. Winging it when it comes to a budget is the best way to overspend and feel stressed when the holiday cheer has worn off and you’re left with a stack of unpaid credit card bills. Remaining true to your financial abilities will pay off, and people will understand when the tree isn’t the only thing you’re trimming. You can trim the holiday budget and make do as needed to make room for the experiences, meals, or things that are most important to you and your family. One way to cut the cost of hosting holiday parties without forfeiting the wonderful time spent with family and friends is to volunteer together at your favorite charity or community organization. Whatever you choose to do, keeping an eye on your spending is totally ok and you might just inspire friends and family to reduce their holiday spending stress by doing the same.
Stick to the Plan
Even the best laid plans can be derailed, especially during the holidays. It’s hard to say no to people you love and to things you want to buy or participate in when the season is so holly and jolly. However, according to a recent Bankrate survey,7 more than 50% of those surveyed said they’re feeling the weight of the financial expectations this year. Keep in mind, if you plan to borrow money or utilize a credit card this season, you’ll want to plan to prioritize holiday debt repayment in the new year. A unique idea4 for staying on track is to enlist the help of a friend, family member, or trusted advisor to act as your accountability partner when it comes to holiday budgeting. For me, my husband is the best accountability partner and in the kindest way. We work together to create budgets for the holidays that work for us and what we want year to year. Accountability and a dash of encouragement may be what you need to stick to the plan!
1Pino, Ivana (2023, Oct 19). Holiday sales are projected to reach $960.4 billion this year. Use these 5 tips to get your wallet ready for the season Retrieved from: https://fortune.com/recommends/banking/how-to-build-a-holiday-budget/
2Bennett, Karen (2023, Sept 19). How to do Holiday Shopping on a Budget Retrieved from: https://www.bankrate.com/banking/how-to-budget-for-holiday-spending/
3Barroso, Amanda (2022, Dec 12). How to Build a Holiday Budget That Works Every Year Retrieved from: https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/how-to-build-a-holiday-budget-that-works-every-year
4Lamberg, Erica (2023, Feb 27). 6 expert tips to help you create a holiday budget you can live with Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/select/how-to-build-a-holiday-budget/
5Angela Belt and Jessica Cherner (2023, Oct 25). 54 Cheap Gifts Under $25 That Are Cheeky In All The Right Ways Retrieved from: https://www.housebeautiful.com/shopping/g797/best-gifts-under-25/
6Mansoor, Sanya (2022, Dec 19). 11 Holidays the World Celebrates in December Retrieved from: https://time.com/6242283/december-global-holidays-christmas-hanukkah-yule/
7Gillespie, Lane (2023, Sept 11). Survey: 50% of holiday shoppers will begin before Halloween, 54% report feeling financially burdened Retrieved from: https://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/early-holiday-shopping/
Jessica PriceRead More from Jessica Price
Jessica is hyper-focused on making information about the Personal Loans offered by CheckSmart including Payday Loans, Installment Loans, and Title Loans accessible and easy to understand. Learning the basics about finances shouldn’t be complicated after all! The key to responsible borrowing is understanding the loans you’re considering, and it’s Jessica’s mission to help anyone considering a loan make an informed decision. Jessica is passionate about sharing easy-to-follow Budgeting Tips and helping readers increase their financial literacy in the Financial Corner of the blog. You’ll find great budgeting tips, Simplified Savings tips, and information that will help you improve your financial wellness sprinkled throughout each of her blogs.