Ah, the holidays- a time for giving, receiving, and most likely overspending. And stress. The stress from needless obligatory spending!
For the holiday season is nothing if not full of hidden expenses. Everything from food, travel, work parties, family get-togethers, hostess gifts, donations, holiday pageants, and more! And if your a big holiday spender your not alone! According to National Retail Foundation, 56% of Americans admitted they’re planning to rack up debt this season, 16% of which expect it to take six months or more to pay off!
Still, the single biggest way you can make your holiday season a lot less stressful is to create and stick to a holiday spending plan. Creating a holiday spending plan will not only help alleviate unnecessary spending stress but ensure you won’t be paying off holiday debt far into the new year!
With just a little planning, you can be among those who will be both debt-free and stress-free this holiday season! So if you would like to learn how to create your own stress-free holiday spending plan, here are the 10 steps you can take to help you stick to your holiday budget this season:
Step 1: Determine How Much You Can Afford To Spend On The Holidays: This step is relatively simple. To figure out how much money can you save between now and December 25th, add up any existing savings previously set aside for the holidays, untapped online funds, such as rebate apps or unused gift cards, and how much you can set aside from earned income between now and the holidays. That’s your allocated amount for this holiday season. An amount proportional to your income.
My personal Christmas Spending Rule? How much you can afford to spend must be an amount you save in CASH. This is the amount you actually have to give for Christmas.
Remember, this season is not about financially crippling yourself to ensure someone will receive a gifted pair of reindeer, light-up glitter socks. The holidays are about expressing love and appreciation for those you love. Both of which can be done without spending a dime.
Step 2: Triage your gift-giving list: While it’s nice to want to give something to everyone you know during the holiday season, it’s truly not necessary. When it comes to gift-giving lists, consider a triage approach. Start off by creating a laundry list of people to include:
- Family – aunts, uncles, children, spouse, cousins, siblings, grandparents, and even the stray dog your brother-in-law adopted. Include everyone you WANT to give a gift to.
- Co-workers – partners, bosses, co-workers, support staff.
- Church friends – Bible school teachers, church staff, grandparent figures.
- Community friends – neighbors, fellow volunteers, and your favorite baggers at the market.
- Those who provide services – paper delivery staff, mail clerks, pizza delivery person, library clerks, yard workers, pool cleaners, and teachers.
Then triage your first list:
- Consider giving actual gifts to only those closest to you, such as immediate family and close family friends. A personal rule of thumbs for me: If I haven’t picked up the phone to call the person during the course of the year, I also won’t be sending them a gift this holiday season.
- Give distant relatives the gift of time with an extended Skype or Google Hangout Calls.
- Gifts to church and temple friends, co-workers, clergy, and teachers can be DIY gifts. Baked goods, DIY wreaths, homespun crochet items, or handmade beauty products all make thoughtful gifts during the holiday season.
- For service workers, such as DHL, FedEx, USPS, and HOA workers, $5.00 per person gift cards are not only appropriate but will often fall under various corporate and federal holiday gift-giving policies.
- For everyone else, your best holiday wishes! Yes, the old fashion and much-forgotten gift of kind words and sincere hopes for others to have a wonderful new year. The lost art of sincere, honest, and genuinely kind sentiment is a gift that never goes out of style. You would be surprised how many people walk through their daily journey never hearing a kind word. Remember, kindness is free. Give it generously this holiday season!
An awesome way to bedazzle those holiday wishes? Dress up your holiday joy with free e-cards and e-vites on Canva.com! It’s an excellent resource for making not only free e-cards but holiday lists, too!
Step 3: Plan for the little stuff. Be sure to consider the following items in your budget:
- Stocking stuffers
- Gift wrap
- Postage and shipping
- Christmas cards
- Holiday photo
- Tips and service gifts
- Holiday meals
- Baking and kitchen gifts
- Décor items
- School holiday party supplies
- Workplace Secret Santa Exchanges
- Party clothing or Ugly Sweater Contests
Once you’ve made a list of all the little things you’ll need, shop the Dollar Tree for such items. You’ll more than likely be able to eliminate most of this list there!
Step 4: Consider Travel. Does your family travel during the holiday season? If so, remember to allocate funds for those expenses. Consider starting cash envelopes for your holiday travel expenses in November to save on surprise expenses in December!
Step 5: Charitable donations. If your family is anything like mine, the holidays always put you in a charitable mood. Remember to budget for your charitable contributions and to ask non-profit groups for tax-deduction slips, when appropriate.
Step 6: Plan for experience gifts: If your family loves to attend the Nutcracker, check out this season’s newest animated holiday movie, or attend a rousing rendition of Scrooge, make sure to budget in for those experience gifts too!
Step 7: Zero-Base your spending plan. The key to a holiday spending plan is to not spend more than you allocated in your spending plan. budgeted. If your budget is tight, you’ve still got two great resources, creativity and time. Think free! With the holiday season still a month out, now is the to prep, purchase, wrap, and store all your holiday gifts. Which allows you to give yourself the greatest gift of all, a stress-free holiday with those nearest and dearest to you! Consider using Free Holiday Budget Worksheets to help you get started.
Step 8: Track ongoing expenditures. One of the best ways to keep track of your holiday spending plan is to keep records of all your purchases. Scan and digitize your receipts. They create a working folder online for your spending plan. Have your spending plan easily accessible on your desktop for quick reference all season. After the season of spending is over, tally your receipts and total your expenses. Then archive this folder and use it as a reference point for next year’s spending plan.
Step 9: Set a timeline. Create weekly goals for what will need to be done, planned, and spent. Making sure to give yourself the time and grace needed to mentally and physically prepare yourself to enjoy your own holiday season! When each task is done, move on. don’t obsess over making every ornament sparkle or every bow tied tighter. Aim for completing 80% of your holiday to-do lists at least 80% of the time. Beyond that is icing on the gingerbread, if you will!
Step 10: Go Zero-Waste when you can. A great way to save time and money each holiday season is by going zero-waste with your holiday spending. don’t opt for wrapping paper that can’t be recycled. Design experiences around gift wrapping. Opt for zero-waste gift-wrapping ideas for kids, using brown kraft paper, which allows gift wrap to have a second life as coloring sheets after Christmas morning! Swap out gift bags for reusable shopping totes. e-cards over greeting cards. Consider making ornaments, wreaths, and stocking stuffers at home. Less waste for your wallet and the environment!
Those are my 10 tips for creating and sticking to a holiday spending plan this gift-giving season! I challenge you today to not only create a holiday spending plan but create a budgeting-mindset. the most crucial element in preventing holiday spending. Now I want to ask, what’s your biggest tip for preventing holiday overspending each year? I’d love to hear about it below!