Yes, it is only just Fall and the leaves are barely starting to change color but before any of us realize it, the snow will be on the ground and Jingle Bells will be playing at the mall (OK, the holiday music will start once Halloween is over).
Budgeting for Christmas shopping now may sound like a chore but it can be the life line you need to avert debt.
Typically when a person goes Christmas shopping and there is no budget, then this gives the illusion of having no limits – and no limits often leads to January credit card bills that hurt.
Designing a budget helps you to avoid that steep downhill in January; and this helps to keep the happiness of the Christmas holidays lasting well into the new year.
If you are like so many other people, chances are budgeting for Christmas could be a first! If so – congratulations! There’s no shame in budgeting, and in fact, budgeting can be applied to other life events such as birthdays, weddings, or family reunions.
Some financial experts advise keeping your budget within two to five percent of your annual income. So, if you earn $30,000 a year, then this allows the budget to rest between $600 and $1,500.
For some families this may not be possible. The best thing to do is sit down and work out how much can you take out of each paycheck from now until December 25th, and work with that.
Here comes the real chore; you need to make a list of all expenses. Do you have to travel at Christmas? It may sound trivial, but even an extra tank or two of gas to drive around visiting relatives and can cost more than you think.
Here are a few ideas to help you organize a budget:
- Who do you “need” to buy for and who would you like to buy for? When you have made this list – prioritize.
- Where are you going to buy the gifts? Discounts are out there to be had, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Free Shipping Day, among others. When you have a list of gifts, do a little homework online and find the best prices and you will find you can save a lot and make your money go further.
- Do any gifts have to be mailed? If so – factor in postage. Factor in time too so you aren’t stuck paying extra to get the gift out on time.
- Wrapping, decorations and the tree. Buy early, on sale, and in bulk when possible.
- Christmas cards and postage costs.
- Baking and food costs.
- Travel costs.
When shopping there is a huge temptation to purchase more extravagant gifts than budgeted, but always ask: where am I going to get this extra money from? Always keep your receipts to help track what has been spent (not to mention should you need one to return an item).
Budgeting for Christmas shopping can be enhanced with some creativity. If buying an expensive item for a family member is not attainable on your own, then make it a family/group gift. Homemade baked goods are generally better than any store-bought goods. Take photographs of the people you love – print them off and find a nice frame. If you recycle Christmas cards, get some bristol board and make your own cards to send and wrapping paper can be colorful magazine pages or comics.
The internet holds a wealth of ideas that can help you have the best holiday ever – even on a very tight budget.
Above all else, keep in mind that the focus of the holiday season should be on what can be given that costs nothing and yet is the most valuable – spending quality time with family and friends. Sharing an evening of laughter together is a memory that will outlast any purchased gift.