Christmas Shopping Prep: Setting and Keeping a Budget

8:14:00 AM

Brett and I have tried our whole marriage to use a budget and so far it has worked pretty well. We don’t take it to the point of me having to be a “crazy coupon lady” we just have always made sure that we are not spending more than we were bringing in. During different stages of our lives we have had different savings goals, and already having the habits of budgeting in place has made that possible. On top of that, just being aware of our financial situation is so helpful to our marriage and family by keeping us on the same page, helping us prepare for the future, and allowing me to stay home with Corinne and our future little boy.  Everyone has their own ideas of what budgeting and being frugal means, and maybe I will post later about more of our systems, but for now I want to focus on the holidays.

During the Christmas season we typically end up adding three new categories to our budget (usually after saving a little during October and November). These categories are Cards, Presents, and Travel (including food and activities while we are traveling). Within those there are obviously lots of things to consider, but those three umbrellas catch everything extra we usually have. So how do we make this work in action?

First: Lots of Research and Estimating
This has been key for us hitting our goals. It is really simple to plug in your travel expenses such as plane tickets, gas, and hotels, because those are fixed costs that you already set up. Start here. Right off the bat you know how much more money you have left to spread out over the rest. Once you know how much you have you can allot amounts to things like presents, eating out, and if/how many cards you want to send.

Second: Set Present Budgets for Individuals
In the past we tried just setting a number for ALL the gifts we were buying and it didn’t work out well. We would shop for people with no real budget for that person and before you know it, you’ve spent your whole budget on a couple people because you found “the perfect gift” that you couldn’t compromise on. (Trust me, I got Brett tickets for us to go to a Blazer game that were like 10th row one year.) Having your budget set for the individuals before you ever go looking for them helps to narrow your focus from the very beginning. Of course, it’s always adjustable, but make sure you stay within the overall budget you started with.  

Third: Not Everyone Needs an Individual Gift
I firmly believe that if you really are sincere, it’s the thought that counts. Brett and I both have extremely large extended families with lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s not always reasonable to get gifts for everyone, nor do we expect them ourselves. However, there is usually something we can do to acknowledge them and our relationship. For friends and family that live far away we usually send a Christmas card. For those that live close we will either do something in person (dinner, a movie, game night, sightseeing, etc) or try to do some service (like babysitting trades for holiday events). I have never (at least that I have been told) had someone be disappointed that I didn’t do more for or with them during the holidays as long as there was effort there in the first place.

All of this can be easily managed in lots of ways. I tend to just have an Excel file with everything on it, but I have seen countless methods and printable pages out there. Just check out this one Pinterest search here. Being organized with all my shopping ideas and making sure I am prepared helps me enjoy the holidays with my family and friends. As such, I have already done a lot of brainstorming and plan on sharing my gift guides and ideas as we jump into this holiday shopping season, and if you have any ideas yourself I would love to hear!

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