Here's a Quick List to Help You Budget for the Holidays


First of all, I am not a financial or trained professional anything.  I'm just a suburban wife and stepmother who is trying to provide for her family and share what I've learned.  Whatever advice you take or not take is entirely on you.

letter to Santa

Credit Image: magma666 on Flickr

How many of you are stressed about all of the extra money going out of your house this time of year?  How many of you cringe in regret come January?

Let me tell you a secret.  If you are waiting until now to plan your finances for the holidays, you have waited 320 days too long.  But we'll get to that later.  Let's start, shall we?


1.  What is your number?  How much can you safely spend over the next few months?   Write your number down.  We'll work from there.


2.  Make a list of all of the expenses you foresee coming up between today and January 1st.  I'm not talking just presents.  What about all of the extra food, decorations, travel, events, school activities, charity, tips, etc.


Here's a sample list:

  • Presents for your own children
  • Presents for spouse
  • Presents for other relatives's children
  • Presents for other relatives
  • Presents for neighbors/friends
  • Presents for children's teacher
  • Extra food for cookie exchange
  • Extra food for company
  • Decorations
  • Wrapping paper
  • Tree
  • Tips for hairdresser, nails, etc.
  • Cards
  • Stamps
  • Boy Scout food drive
  • Homeless shelter food drive
  • Travel expenses -- planes, trains, and automobiles
  • Unknowns -- always plan a little extra for the unknowns.  They are guaranteed to come up.


3.  Now, go back through your list and write down how much you think everything will cost.  Don't worry about the number you wrote down first.  Think realistically about every single item.


4.  Add everything up.  How much is the difference between what you can afford and what the holidays are going to cost you?  I am guessing there is a decent-sized gap.


5.  Go back through your list and think how you can realistically cut back.  Here are some examples:

  • Presents for children only.  Talk to your spouse and other close relatives if exchanging presents will harm you financially.  All you have to say is, "let's just get for the kids this year."  Trust me, everyone is in the same boat and will love you just the same.
  • I love lots of presents under the tree -- but who says they have to be either presents or expensive?  Hubby and I pick out a few little "house presents" that we need to purchase anyway, wrap them, and put them under the tree.  Empty wrapped boxes will work too.
  • Inventory your wrapping paper and cards and decorations, etc from last year before going out and purchasing new.  If you are buying fewer presents, you should need less paper.  What about cards and stamps?  If you want to cut back, send a nice email newsletter to some or all of the folks in your list.
  • Instead of giving money to charity as they always ask this time of year, donate gently used coats the kids have grown out of.  Or make a commitment to support this charity throughout the year.
  • There are guidelines that tell you how much to tip those special people during the holidays.  Give a little extra based on what you can afford.  And if you have to cut here, send them a nice personal note telling them how much their service means to you.
  • Think about something homemade you can give your neighbors and friends as a little something.  What is your thing?  Do you bake?  Crochet?  I guarantee you there will be a million homemade somethings you can find on Pinterest.


6.  If you do go over budget, write that number down, come up with a plan on how much you can pay off each month, and make a commitment to ensure it's paid off quickly.


7.  When should you plan your finances for the holiday season?  Every single day between December 26th and the start of the next holiday season.  Too late for this year, but you can make changes for next year.  Here are some examples:

  • Put away a set amount of money each month in an earmarked Christmas/holiday savings account or envelope. 
  • Hit the 50%-75% off sales after Christmas.
  • Yard sale and thrift store shop all year long for decorations, wrapping paper, etc.
  • Think and prepare ahead.  For example, we always have the Boy Scout food drive every year at this time.  I purchased my food on sale with coupons in August and paid 50 cents for an entire grocery bag full of food to donate.  If I would have waited until the last minute, it would have cost me full price.


I hope this helps you plan and be creative with your finances, and take some of the financial stress out of the holiday season. 

How do you get through the extra financial burden during the holidays?  I would love for you to share your ideas in the comments section!


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