Holiday Budeting Worksheet by Christmas Tree

How to Create (and Successfully Stick to) a Holiday Budget

The holiday season is a special time of the year where we look forward to enjoying the company of friends and family and annual traditions! It’s also known as a time of giving, which means heading into this season without a spending plan can put stress on your finances!

We love to create a magical atmosphere in our homes and enjoy spreading holiday cheer to loved ones, but the joy of giving can easily go overboard if you’re not careful.

Here at Pelican, our Nationally Certified Credit Counselors know that making a holiday spending plan will not only help to lessen your stress, but it will keep you from overspending and potentially racking up debt. Financial planning for the season of giving doesn’t have to be overwhelming or challenging.

Avoid procrastinating and get your full holiday spending plan completed now by following these smart tips our Credit Counselors recommend to help you get organized!

Determine Your Spending Limit and Set a Holiday Budget

Setting your holiday spending budget is the best way to set limits on your purchases while still enjoying the season! Getting a head start on this is essential so you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend.

So, how do you determine much money you have available to cover holiday expenses this year?

You should add up Christmas Club savings you have with your financial institution, other money already saved, and any extra income you expect.

Income TypeAmount
Christmas Club Savings$350
Savings Account Extra$100
Credit Card Point Reward Redemptions$50
Here’s what a sample of the budget might look like.

This is money that can be spent on gifts since it’s not already going to your mortgage, bills, or other expenses. It’s best to stay within your budget instead of spending more than you saved with a plan to pay it off later.

List Out All of Your Holiday Expenses

Begin by making a list that prioritizes all of your expected holiday expenses and compare them to the amount of money you have available to you. This will help you decide how you will allocate the money in your budget.

When you are thinking about your list, consider everything and everyone that should be included in your spending plan to make the holidays memorable! This includes gifts, cards, wrapping paper, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, decorations, meals, and charitable donations.

You can use our free holiday budgeting worksheet to keep your list organized!

Download our holiday budget worksheet! You can use and print it to stay organized this holiday season!

Assign Money to Each Category

Divide your budget according to the different spending categories you’ll have this holiday season.

This means assigning a specific amount for each gift, as well as each outing, holiday party, or other event you have coming up. Knowing how much you have to spend on each gift will help you narrow down ideas before you shop and avoid impulse buys.

Your budget split might look something like this:

CategoryAmount Budgeted
Family/Friends Gifts$350
Work Gift Exchange$25
Christmas Dinner with Friends$75
Company Holiday Party$50
Splitting the budget into categories helps you track your spending at a deeper level.

When you’re not prepared, impulse buying can greatly contribute to your spending going over budget! Bringing your shopping list with you or purchasing online for store pickup will also reduce impulse buying.

Don’t Procrastinate–Start Early!

You dedicated time to carefully plan your holiday budget–don’t procrastinate on executing that plan!

You don’t want to run into roadblocks by waiting until the last minute. That will throw off your hard work. You also don’t want to miss out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, which seem to be starting earlier and earlier each year!

If you want to make sure you receive your gifts in time for the holidays, keep in mind that shipping time can take longer during the holiday season. Allowing yourself time to search for deals is a great strategy to maximize the opportunity of saving money!

Track Your Purchases

As you begin to purchase gifts and items related to the holidays, be sure to subtract the amount from your running budget total. This is how you will know how well you are sticking to your budget or if adjustments in spending per category is needed.

Keeping a running total of how much you have spent and how much you still have left to spend is the biggest key to keep from overspending and breaking the bank!

That’ll round out your budget to look more like this:

CategoryAmount BudgetedAmount Spent
Family/Friends Gifts$350$______
Work Gift Exchange$25$25
Christmas Dinner with Friends$75$65
Company Holiday Party$50$75
Tracking your budget by amount spent keeps your spending on track!

Find Ways to Stack Your Savings

Now that we know the best way to create a spending plan and have an understanding of how to best stick to that plan, it‘s time to talk about ways to save even more money!

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons!

Before you hit the stores, check your mailbox and inbox for coupons. You can compare prices to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck.

Smart Shopping

Discount stores are known for having hidden treasures. Hit those $1 or 2-for-1 sale bins for decorations and treats!

Team Up

If you have a large family, consider playing a game like Secret Santa or White Elephant. You can also set limits on how much everyone will spend per gift–this can be done for games or individuals gifts. When it comes to meals, a family potluck or “Friendsgiving” is an easy way for everyone to chip in without the financial burden all falling on one person.

Homemade Gifts

Personalized keepsakes filled with thoughtfulness is one of the best ways to save more money. DIY gifts can seem overwhelming at first, but the cost-efficient end result will be worth it!

Looking to take holiday photos and send cards? There are lots of ways you can save on those too!

Holiday Lights and Decorations

Many areas have drive-through light displays or neighborhoods that go all out with decorations. Gather up the kids and drive them around to see the lights. You can even provide hot chocolate and treats along the way. It is an inexpensive way to spend time with each other making PRICELESS memories!  

Follow Tips from the Experts

Our Nationally Certified Credit Counselors have a few more “Pro Tips” they are excited to share with you!

  • When shopping, attempt to stick to a cash-only system so you won’t overspend on credit cards.
  • Add a few extra gifts to your shopping list. These gifts should be generic in case you receive a surprise gift or forget to buy for someone. It can ease your mind and save you from scrambling to find something at the last minute.
  • Start saving early in the year! If you put aside money each month to cover your holiday expenses, you will stress a lot less about your budget when the time comes. A Christmas Club account from your local credit union can help with that.
  • Earn extra money to cover expenses by taking on a seasonable job or expanding your side hustle.
  • Organize a group volunteer event with your friends and family. You can forgo buying gifts for each other by giving the gift of your time to a local nonprofit.

You don’t need to go into debt by getting wrapped up in holiday spending in order to have a wonderful time with your family and friends. This is meant to be a joyful and special time of the year, and following these smart holiday tips will allow for a stress-free season!

It’s okay if you’re in a different place than others financially! It’s the sentiment behind the giving that’s important, not the price tag.

Want even more help budgeting for the holidays? Check out our Planning for the Holidays financial workshop to learn even more tips, tricks, and tools you can have at your disposal:

What are some ways that you save money during the holiday season?

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