How to Create a Holiday Budget That Will Keep You Out of the Red

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Not to be like the stores I hate that bust out all next season stuff at the start of the previous season….but it’s nearing the time when I start shopping for Christmas. (Yes–I know it’s only October.) Reason being that I’m pretty darn busy all the time, and the husband is pretty darn busy all the time. And somehow for fifteen years he’s managed to skirt around not only buying for a single damn person for Christmas, but also around creating the actual holiday budget. (Yes, this is certainly something that needs to come up in our ‘meetings’ at some point.)

But also–it’s National Financial Planning Month!

 

Anyway, I’ve found it easier to start shopping WAY ahead of time so I’m not scrambling around right at December 23rd to finish. I’d like to enjoy my holiday, too…I don’t know why that’s so hard for other people around here to understand, Gahhh.

But since I’m the one to do all this shopping, I’ve had to come up with a system for keeping track of WHO we buy for, and HOW MUCH we spend on them.

Why the super strict budget? Well, we learned long ago that we didn’t want to rack everything up on credit cards for the holidays, so I actually budget in an amount to set aside monthly to cover our holiday expenses. {Check out THIS post to see more about how to make a working household budget.}

The money that’s put aside goes into what I call our ‘escrow’ fund, where an amount is deposited every month, then certain expenses are taken from it monthly. These include all the non-standard bills that are paid like quarterly, etc, but also includes gifts for birthdays and other occasions plus Christmas.

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Here’s how I budget for the holidays:

 

1.What I usually do is total everything up from the previous year and use that as my estimator for budgeting for the next year–remember that you’re depositing money from January to December for this!

2. So, basically you start out with a list. I start with immediate family. Then I move on to any extended family. Then I add friends/neighbors and their kids. And last I’ll add people like teachers, the bus driver, etc. (I’m not sure how I feel about giving our mail person a Christmas gift…I mean, they’re getting paid to do their job, and half the time it’s not even done very well…so I guess that’s another story for another post.)

3. Next we assign a budgeted amount for each ‘category’ of people. Like each kid gets the same allotment, then each of our parents/grandparents get the same budgeted amount, etc.

4. Once the money is settled for each person, I start listing the things I’m going to buy for them, and add the cost so I can keep a running total. If it’s been purchased, I add a check mark in the ‘purchased’ column.

5. Also, I know many people love to use highlighters for stuff like this, and I do too–when it’s some of the last part of the list or something that’s urgent. But what I’ve found insanely useful is using a ‘grey-out’ marker for things I’ve finished. {I happened upon these from my art kit when I was in an architecture class in college. Shockingly they didn’t dry out after all these years, lol!} I’ve very visual, so if something is greyed out, I know I’ve finished it and my brain just basically ignores it. It’s somehow more effective than ‘checking’ things off the list for me. The more white I see on the paper, the more I need to get my ass in gear.

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Here’s what my list looks like in progress:

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6. And the last part is to keep this spreadsheet, because you’ll need to total it all after the holidays are over, and when you’re starting your New Year budgeting. Divide this total by 12, then that amount needs to be put aside every month to keep you from going in the red next year!

 

Ready to start your holiday budgeting? Get the FREE Holiday Budgeting Template by clicking the image below:

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Know somebody that needs help with budgeting for the holidays? SHARE!

 

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