Tip 1: Create a Budget and Keep Track
Click here for a great template in Excel or here for an awesome free budget tool for Google Sheets. Make sure you include all holiday costs such as food, gifts, gas, travel, decorations, and shipping. Don’t forget to include babysitters, doormen, bosses, coworkers, or anyone else you may want to buy gifts along with planning for the “unexpected” expenses (eg a new neighborly gift exchange) by adding a small cushion for those extras.
As you buy gifts, food, and other holiday purchases, put them into your holiday tracker. Keeping track allows you to make sure you are staying on budget and gives you a guide for years to come.
Tip 2: Plan Ahead
The holidays are a great time to plan ahead! Look at local ads and comparison shop online to get the best deals. Carrie your budget with you and reference it often when shopping to help stay on track. Beware of the “holiday hype” by making impulse purchases that aren’t on your list just because they are a great deal.
You can also plan ahead by keeping a small handful of hostess-type gifts in a stockpile (items like chocolates, wine, ornaments, games, etc.) for those unexpected events and gift exchanges. These can be purchased on sale year-round. Word of warning though; It is easy to go overboard here. Keep all these items in one location, try to keep them generic so you can use them throughout the year if needed, and limit the number of items you have on-hand so your stockpile doesn’t break the bank.
Tip 3: Keep It Simple
Divide your holiday list into “needs” and “wants” to make cuts to your spending as needed. Another method of doing this is to prioritize expenses. For example, you host Thanksgiving. The biggest priority and expense in your budget would be the turkey, then side dishes, then dessert. By prioritizing this way, you can get creative with your budget and realize potential savings. Don’t break the bank buying desserts when you can ask Aunt Mae to bring her famous pumpkin pie or Cousin Bobby to grill up his famous blackened asparagus!
The holidays are also a time for travel and going out. Other ways to simplify and stay within your means include
- Preparing awesome holiday meals at home or hosting pot luck holiday parties instead of spending on a dinner out.
- Plan for family fun with these crafts or take a “holiday light tour” of your neighborhood (walk or drive) instead of a movie.
- Make your own decorations. The homemade decorations are often the ones we cherish as keepsakes for years to come.
- Want, Need, Wear, Read – gift based on an item needed, wanted, to be worn, and one to be read. Read more about how this method has changed holiday giving for one household here.
Tip 4: Enlist a Friend
Don’t go it alone! Much like dieting, staying on track with holiday spending often requires extra support. Enlist a friend or family member to help and keep each other accountable.
Tip 5: Be Present
It is so easy to get swept up in the spirit of the season, ending up overwhelmed. Take deep breathes and refer back to your budget and these tips as needed. And remember, the NWBRV HomeOwnership Center team is always here to help!