Budget! Budget! Go away! Come again another day! The simple thought of making a Christmas budget and sticking to a budget makes me cringe. I know I’m not alone. Any budget process can be dreary. But the discipline of creating your Christmas budget and sticking to it can actually free you up to have the best Christmas ever!
Five easy tips to help you stick with your Christmas budget
- Make your budget now. Even though we’re still 47 days away from Christmas, the sooner you have your budget, the sooner you can get shopping and feel good about it! There are two basic parts to your Christmas budget – 1) what is the total amount you have to spend, and 2) approximately how much you have to spend per person? Part of the joy of Christmas is finding perfect presents for the people that you love. If you focus your efforts on finding great, personal gifts, instead of matching a specific budget amount per person, you will have a lot more fun and still come in within your budget.
- Don’t make a detailed list. When you go grocery shopping, the way to keep from spending too much is to make a detailed list. When you are Christmas shopping and you want to stay within your budget, make a general list of ideas. That will help you find wonderful gifts when you are inspired instead of hunting for one specific item. For example, my niece likes horses. If “Breyers horse barn” is on the list, I will have already decided on the perfect gift. When I find out it costs £50, which is out of my budget, I will be disappointed. Instead, if “items for horse collection” is on my list, then I am free to find what speaks to me. Like at the local craft fair where I can get a custom name picture with horses on it. A very great and personal gift, and only £25.
- Keep receipts. The fun thing about using an approximate amount per person is that you have flexibility in how much you spend. The challenge about budgeting that way is you have some flexibility in how much you spend, and an increased risk of going over budget. So, keep an envelope accounting in your purse or wallet. If you get close to your limit and you still have presents left to buy, then you may need to return some items and make different choices.
- Shop early. Conventional wisdom says that shopping last minute will get you the best deals. But that is not necessarily so, especially this year. And the downside is that you will be under pressure, out of time, and low on patience-all a recipe for disaster as far as your budget is concerned. If you shop early you will have the presence of mind to make great choices, have fun, and end up with some fabulous gifts.
- Shop with your heart. Don’t go for the latest gizmo or gadget. Go for a personal gift that reminds you of the recipient. Share with them something you love. Let them know that you thought about them individually, rather than just buying them a present. And I know you will find things that cost less and keep you within your budget.
Many families know that the key to sticking to a Christmas budget is making a Christmas gift list. Even those who use a list, however, can fall prey to buying multiple presents for the same person, overspending, or buying more than they need. Learn how to make the most efficient list for Christmas shopping and methods for sticking to the list as it is written.
Make a Christmas Gift List
A Christmas gift list is the linchpin in sticking to the Christmas budget. The gift list should include all the gifts that will be purchased for each person. Spouses, children, family members, teachers, friends, neighbours, and everyone who receives a gift should be on the list.
Brainstorm gift ideas for each person and include these ideas on the list as well. Then, each name on the list should be assigned a dollar amount for gifts. This amount is a guideline for spending and should be a realistic estimate of how much the anticipated gift will cost. If a teacher is on the list, for example, a gift idea may be a gift certificate to her favourite store and the amount to spend may be £10. The total amount for all the gifts should not be more than the Christmas budget.
Stick to the Christmas Gift List
With the Christmas planning and holiday shopping list complete it is time to start shopping. When shopping, carry the list. If a gift on the list is located, write what was purchased and how much money it cost next to the person’s name on the list. This helps to compare how much was budgeted and how much was spent.
If shopping online or through catalogues, use the list to check off purchases. Be sure to include any shipping and handling charges when tracking purchases. Cross a line through the person’s name to help make the connection that the person no longer needs a gift.
Tracking the Christmas Budget
Tracking the budget while Christmas shopping helps prevent overspending. One way to keep track of receipts and to keep a running total while shopping is to attach an envelope to the gift list. When an item is purchased, place the receipt in the envelope, write the amount spent and subtract it from the total Christmas budget. As holiday shopping continues, the balance will go down. When the money is gone, the Christmas shopping is done.
Making a Christmas gift list is the key to sticking to a Christmas budget. By assigning each person on the list a specific gift and a specific amount of money to purchase the gift, it is easier to make sure that holiday purchases will not exceed the budget.
Using the list while shopping, crossing off purchased gifts and tracking purchases are ways to help prevent overspending. If extra gifts are purchased or too much money is spent, it is easy to return items if receipts have been saved in one envelope.
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