The holidays season can be stressful for so many reasons: the additional time commitments, the extra time spent with your extended family, not to mention the additional financial strain.
Planning for the holidays with a clear budget in mind can at least help with one of those stressors – reducing the financial stress of the holidays. Planning ahead can also reduce your holiday expenses without making it feel as though you have cut your Christmas back to nothing.
Start Shopping Early
Getting started early on your Christmas shopping will help reduce the pressure of finding the perfect gift. It can also help you save money since you’ll have more time to find sales and bargains. And keep in mind that often, the perfect present is not the most expensive. Still stuck? Here are Christmas gift tips and ideas for your holiday office exchange.
Set Up Gift Exchanges
You likely aren’t the only one trying to keep your Christmas budget in check this year, so try proposing a gift exchange with your friends and family – they may even be relieved to let go of the normal gift exchange
Instead of giving gifts to everyone in your family, you can draw names or give family gifts instead of individual gifts. At work, you may choose to do a white elephant gift exchange instead of a secret Santa, which can reduce the price tag, as well. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask if others are willing to make changes and to set reasonable limits on the amount you should spend on the gifts.
Consider Limiting Holiday Travel
But gifts aren’t the only budget line you may be able to cut this Christmas. Look at your other obligations in regards to the holidays and determine which ones you can cut back on. You may choose to celebrate the holidays at home and visit family during a different time of year or eliminate another annual trip you normally take around the holidays. Prioritize which aspects of the holidays are most important to you and limit other obligations to make it happen.
Make Charitable Giving a Priority
If you are doing well financially, you may consider giving more to charity this year than you normally do. There are always people who need help in difficult times, and it’s easy enough to find a local charity that is in line with your beliefs. Once you find the charity for you, be sure to work it into your yearly budget, to be sure you’re still on track after the holidays.
Set Up a Holiday Budget
A holiday budget will also help you stay on track. Most people only budget for gifts and leave out the other expenses such as holiday food, Christmas cards, Christmas travel, and decoration expenses. Be sure to include each of these expenses in your holiday budget so you can be sure to get an accurate number of how much you’re really spending.
Switching to cash for most of the gifts will also make it easier to stay on budget. Avoid using credit cards for any Christmas expenses, since they make it much easier to overspend. Shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales can help save you money, as well. If money is really tight, you may even want to take on a holiday job to help keep your budget on track.
Start Planning for Next Year
Additionally, you can begin planning for next year now. In addition to saving money each month to cover Christmas gifts, you can purchase gifts throughout the year, not just during the Christmas season. Keep track of you who have gotten a gift for so you do not buy more than one gift, and store them in one central location, so you do not lose the gifts you have already purchased. This allows you to take advantage of sales that happen throughout the year.
Stick to Your Plan
Planning now will save you money and reduce the stress you feel at the holidays. Open discussions with friends, family, and coworkers can relieve some of the holiday stress for everyone.
If you find that other people are not willing to make the cuts over the holidays you can find a way to purchase the gifts you need to, but spend less on each time than you normally would. It’s important to not overextend yourself during the holidays. After all, nothing ruins holiday cheer like a looming credit card bill.
Culled from The Balance