Oh, joy: the holiday of cookies, eggnog, presents and horrible, terrible music is coming around the corner faster than Santa with a runaway reindeer. One of my October goals was to create a budget for Christmas, so I grudgingly sat down and did it. Ugh.
As you might guess, Christmas budgets have never been a thing I’ve worried about. Sure, I’ve estimated how much I will spend on one particular person, and I know how much I should plan for to drive from Fort Worth to Des Moines for the holiday. But I’ve never methodically thought through the season to make a clear, written financial plan.
Let me tell you, it adds up fast.
Also let me tell you, I’m glad I created my Christmas budget so far before the actual holiday. It’s much easier to work it into my budget in small increments over the next two and a half months rather than freaking out, overspending and then needing my credit card to supplement the meager holiday fund. Yes, this has happened the past two years. No, it’s not going to happen this year.
- First, I made a list of the major categories I need to budget for: presents, travel, baking.
- Then, I listed out all the people I’ll be buying presents for, and I noted any ideas I have so far.
- Once I made that list, I started marking how much I think I’d like to spend on each person. Although they are all within a relatively close range, and some might go a little over while others go a little under, I wanted dollar amounts for when I go shopping for each person.
- I then estimated travel expenses–really just gas money to get home as I won’t need to pay to board the dog and I won’t be staying in a hotel at all. I added in a small amount extra for food and coffee along the road. Although I expect I will go out to eat a couple times while in Iowa, I’ll also have that week’s normal budget to work with while I’m there, and I won’t be buying normal groceries and gas.
- I added everything up so far, and then went back through and adjusted some estimations for presents. Again, it adds up fast, and I quickly realized that, although I’d love to spoil people more in the future, I needed to trim down across the board for this year.
- Once that was added up, I estimated how much, while staying within reason, I can splurge on holiday baking projects. Honestly, I doubt I’ll do too much this year, but I’d love to take some things for the office and home for the holiday.
- After I had my grand total, a number I was comfortable with, I looked at the calendar between now and Christmas and figured out how much I need to plan from each paycheck between now and then to make it happen, keeping in mind that I will need some of the fund available soon to start with presents, but I won’t need travel money until basically the week of.
So, now I’m curious–how do you plan for Christmas? What happens if you get into the season of cheer and overspending and realize you forgot someone on your original list? I’m not a huge Christmas person. I love, love, love seeing my family and curling up with cocoa and movies on a cold winter night, but I hate, hate, hate the music, crowded stores and forced cheer. And yet, I can also see already how having a plan will help alleviate some stress that goes with the holiday.