Tricky Bits of Christmas: How to Create a Christmas Budget - and Stick with It!
Welcome to What's in the Bible?'s 6-week blog series to help you and your family through the "Tricky Bits" of this holiday season - everything from connecting our modern traditions to their sacred roots to helping you navigate holiday budgets and meal planning! Join our team of writers plus some very special guest bloggers for a Christmas blog series unlike any other.
Today's guest blogger is Crystal Paine, of MoneySavingMom.com.
How to Create a Budget for Christmas -- and Stick With It!
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. Sit down this weekend, if at all possible and look at your current expenditures and your income and decide what is a realistic budget amount to set aside for Christmas.
2. Start Saving
The sooner you can start setting aside money for Christmas, the better. Even if all you can manage to squeeze out of your budget is $3 to $5 each paycheck, start setting that aside in a separate fund. Do not allow yourself to touch it for any reason, except to purchase Christmas gifts.
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 regular 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.
Feeling strapped for cash this Christmas? Be sure to check out my 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas series for lots of ideas to help shore up your Christmas gift budget over the next few weeks.
3. Make a Plan
After you get your Christmas budget created and you've begun setting money aside, it's time to start planning your gift list! Again, if you can do this early, you'll have a huge advantage.
Why? Because when you see some amazing rock-bottom bargain deal that would be perfect for someone on your Christmas list, you can snatch it up then and there and cross that person off your list! Not only will you save a lot of money by starting your shopping early, but you'll also feel so much more organized and relaxed going into December!
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.
4. 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!
5. 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.
Crystal Paine is a wife, mom of three, and bestselling author. Visit her blog, MoneySavingMom.com, for high-value coupons, online bargains, freebies, and practical ideas and inspiration to get your life and finances in order.