It's the most wonderful time of the year… pumpkin spice is well in swing, and before long I'll be scrambling to come up with some Halloween costume that doesn't look like I just threw it together last night. Later this week I'll be sitting down to plan out my budget for the holidays.
And trust me, the budget this time of year is a little heavier than in the spring… you're hosting out of town guests, buying extras for big family meals, budgeting in gift giving. If we're not careful, we can go over budget FAST!
Over the last few years, I've gotten a lot better at limiting my spending so that I comfortably stay on budget. And I wanted to give a few tips on how I've done that!
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First tip: Have an actual budget for the holidays!
It's tempting to just waltz into the holiday season and say “no, I just won't buy anything for myself and instead I'll spend that money on other people!”
But the truth is, you still need things during the holidays! Maybe your kitchen mixer breaks as you're prepping family dinner, or you remember you tore a hole in your party dress from last Christmas, and you need to replace it… things happen!
So don't walk in blind, have a budget for some additional areas. Instead I plan to spend on 3 major areas that I normally wouldn't spend on during the holidays: Hosting, Meals, and Gifts.
In my hosting budget, I give myself a specific amount for fresh candles, holiday decorations (so I don't look like a scrooge), new throw pillows, or guest room linens. But once I spend it, I'm out! And I have to find ways to make that extra money stretch.
In my meals budget, I'm adding additional funds to my grocery budget for holiday cooking. Between holiday potlucks, bake sales, big ‘ol turkeys and hams, I could not do holiday cooking on my normal $100 per week budget. So, I give myself an extra $100 per month in November and December, and that has worked out well in years past.
I use Walmart Grocery almost exclusively for my grocery shopping to keep myself in check. It totals my cart for me so that I know what I'm spending before I check out, and I can re-balance any meals . Best part? The service is free, and you can get $10 off your first order by clicking here!
I do my gift budget planning a little differently than hosting or meals. I sit down and think about what I want to buy for each person on my list in context of what I'm comfortable spending. Then I add that all up and start saving up for gifts, usually in August each year. Then, when the sales come around during the holidays, I try to get the best price for each item.
Second tip: Rein in the Gifting!
My gifting budget would go over board every year if I hadn't put a few rules in place for myself about gifting.
People have all kinds of weird hangups on gifting. How much is too much? Will they appreciate home made? Why do we even gift, we can get whatever we need all year long? Do I need to give something to my coworkers? Will Suzy hate me if I get something for Sally, but not her? Well I don't have all the answers, but here are my 3 rules for gifting:
Stick to the List!
Sit down before you do any shopping and write out a list of the people who you want to give gifts to. Be thorough, and think of all of the people who you had to run out and buy last minute gifts for last year. Then, stick to that list. That means when your coworker walks in with a Starbucks giftcard for you, give her a heartfelt ‘thank you' but do not feel obligated to reciprocate if she is not on your list!
See if you can Narrow it Down!
Many of us have this habit of buying something for ourselves as soon as we decide we want it! That doesn't leave a long list of “stuff I want” when the holidays come around. So, many people who I would have given individual gifts to have actually created ways to reduce the gifting. Gift exchanges and Secret Santa's are great ways to go for 1 higher dollar gift, instead of bunches of little gifts that you probably won't use!
Don't Give if you Don't Appreciate!
Gifts should be heartfelt tokens of appreciation, so don't water them down by giving EVERYONE a gift. Be selective, and put your money where you want to say “Thanks”.
Regardless of how big your budget is, it's always good to set out with a plan for how you're going to stay on budget. So, give yourself a few minutes to think about your holiday spending this week!
This year as I was doing my gift list, I decided to get my new boss something for everything he's helped me with this year. I decided my limit should be $25– so I put together some ideas of what to get him. If you're looking for some ideas for your boss, check out 20 Gifts for your Boss under $25!
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