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I know it is completely illogical, but Christmas kind of snuck up on me this year. It is the same time every year, so I’m still trying to figure out how I failed so miserably this year.
I’m planning to use the new baby excuse with anyone that asks, but since she is 7 months old, that excuse really doesn’t fly anymore.
Fortunately, I had included Christmas as one of my budget items throughout the year, so I have money set-aside for the holidays. However, I really haven’t managed my Christmas spending this year.
Ideally, I like to start shopping in September or October. This gives me plenty of time to write out my lists, find good deals and get everything done prior to December.
I’m not sure when I’ve ever actually been that on the ball, but I can keep dreaming each year that I’ll do a little bit better.
So although I’m not the ideal Christmas model, one thing I always do is stay on budget. I’m good at that aspect of Christmas.
Unfortunately, it takes more than just budgeting to stay on track with holiday spending.
I’m still a long way from perfection on Christmas spending but have found that when I focus on these 5 methods of controlling my spending I’m significantly more successful.
1. Budget for Christmas throughout the year
This suggestion may be a bit late for many of you if you are reading this December – but hey there is always next year.
I personally set aside a small amount of money each month for holiday spending. In August or September, I increase my monthly contribution to my holiday budget category.
Personally, I base my budget on my previous years spending.
It is very important to know how much you spend each year to adequately budget for the future. This means that as you do your holiday spending you keep accurate records of what you have spent. No fudging the numbers and cheating the system. If it is holiday related spending it needs to be correctly categorized.
Review your current situation to determine if additional spending will be needed.
For example, as kids get older, their gifts tend to be more expensive. You may have additional family members to purchase gifts for. Maybe you are the lucky one who can decrease your list.
Depending on your financial situation it is also important to factor in travel and meals for the holiday season.
We hosted Thanksgiving this year and even though everyone contributes, we still spent a lot of money on groceries. For Christmas, we’ll be driving to Utah. This means we will have extra gas and dining out expenses that are technically Christmas related spending.
If you are like us and often entertain over the holidays you may want to check out my post on 14 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill.
Once you have reviewed your previous spending and factored in changes to this year’s estimated spending, it is time to set your budget. This needs to be a realistic amount that you can afford without using a credit card to fund your overspending.
I know it is hard to stay on a budget over the Holiday Season, but buyers remorse in January when you see the credit card statement is so much worse.
2. Write a Christmas Gift List
You will overspend if you don’t have a list. I’m sure there are specific studies that prove this fact, but based on my observation skills I know it is true.
Before you buy your first gift start a holiday gift list.
I typically start with close family, friends, and coworkers. I put my list together and then set a budget for each person on my list.
As I do my budget I work my way down the list until I run out of money. If this means some people don’t get gifts they will survive.
I can’t afford to give everyone on my list a nice Christmas gift.
To be honest, I don’t think everyone wants a gift either. I tend to get a lot of lotion, candles, and treats each year. I love the thought behind the gift and appreciate the gift, but honestly, I don’t need more stuff.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more and more selective about my gift giving. Most of the people on my list get very simple gifts or even more frequently I nice card with a personal message.
One thing I do like to do is find the funny cards (the Star Wars ones crack me up) since they have a bit more personality.
3. Be creative
Some of the most meaningful gifts I’ve received and given have been the least expensive gifts. The gifts from the heart, always mean the most. I don’t have a crafty bone in my body, so this idea doesn’t work well for me.
What I am decent at is photography. I’ve shot pictures of friends as a fun inexpensive Christmas gift. People love this idea and I know that the pictures I take have special meaning.
It is a super easy way to give gifts since you can upload the files to Snapfish or a similar online company and have everything shipped directly to your friends or family. I’ve been super happy with the quality of the images Snapfish produces and since I used to develop my own prints, I’m very picky.
There are also thousands of creative, easy gift ideas online. Pinterest is the absolute best resource for inexpensive fun gift ideas. Here is a link to a Pinterest board that I created with fun, inexpensive gift ideas.
Pinterest Board – Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas
4. Money doesn’t matter
It is really easy to get caught up in the Spend, Spend, Spend mentality of Christmas. And yes, spending is important, but often we are giving gifts that aren’t needed, really even wanted or going to be used.
Be selective when you do your gift list. Not everyone needs a gift, they will survive.
It is okay to write co-workers a nice note and skip the expensive gift. I can guarantee they will keep the note a lot longer than the candles or lotion.
Last year one of my co-workers gave each of us a nice note with some really cute Christmas socks. I still have the note and the socks.
These are some similar Christmas socks – aren’t they the cutest!
It was such a simple sweet gift that really meant a lot to me. I’d much rather have a meaningful card then a bunch of stuff that I either re-gift or eventually donate.
5. Look for memories rather than physical gifts
Besides a few random gifts over the years, I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas last year. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the gifts, they just didn’t stick out in my mind.
However, I can tell you what we did as a family.
Family time spent together is much more meaningful than any gift under the tree.
It is okay to get all your nieces and nephews together for a movie and popcorn night. I’ve got a lot of extended family and if I did $10 gifts for each of them I’d be spending over $200.
Most $10 gifts are kind of cheesy anyway, so each year Aaron and I have gotten in the habit of inviting all of the local family over for dinner. It has become a great tradition and means a lot to us.
I doubt the kids appreciate not getting specific gifts, but for me, the time spent with family is more important than gifts any day.
I also love doing Christmas craft parties, candy apple parties, gingerbread houses . . . . . the list goes on and on.
What matters is that you are spending time creating memories with those who mean the most to you.
Why Controlling your Holiday Christmas Spending Matters
I know so many people who dread this time of year. They get so caught up in the hunt for the perfect gift that they stress themselves out and then completely over-spend.
Christmas is about the memories and fun times we have as family and friends. The Holiday season is about sharing special moments and reconnecting with everyone we love.
There is nothing worse than opening up your credit card statement in January and having a bit of sticker shock.
I know people that don’t pay off their Christmas spending until June or July and then they start the whole process again. It isn’t worth it!
I know that when I manage my budget for Christmas and manage my spending properly the Christmas season doesn’t leave me stressed and frazzled and I have time to focus on the important things that really matter: Family & Friends!
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