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Holiday spending survival guide: 7 budgeting tips

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Since my divorce and crawling my way out of a terrible financial fix (thanks ex-husband!), I budget for nearly everything. There are a few things around the holidays that can send me for a loop so this year, I have tried to be more mindful of what those things are and budget appropriately. 

  • Wrapping Paper – I typically plan my budget for the presents not the wrapping paper. Some malls in the area (or stores) offer free wrapping when you purchase a gift there. Take advantage of that!
  • Cookie Making – depending on the cookies, some are less expensive to make than others. Can you make great cookies with simple ingredients and not a lot of expensive nuts or chocolate? Maybe even do a cookie exchange with friends or neighbors so you don’t have to buy a lot of unique ingredients.
  • Holiday Dress – Not that I go out that often but I do have one company Christmas party that I attend year after year. It is a dress-up formal occasion. This time of year is great to grab a dress from a consignment store or trade with friends. 
  • Little Gifts – There are a multitude of little gifts that seem to pop up. Gifts for your co-workers, neighbors, baby-sitter, teacher, or boss. (I would say hair dresser here but I usually go to Great Clips/CostCutters etc. so I don’t have a regular person I need to spiff at the end of the year). Even my kids have friends they want to give a little something to – I try to make them budget for this. Little tokens of appreciation add up. My kids and I made personalized coffee mugs a couple years ago. We got mugs at the dollar store and decorated them with ceramic sharpie markers. Easy and fun. 
  • Decorations – I have some decorations that we use year after year, but I often have that string of lights that doesn’t light up or I just want to add a little something new. Plan ahead and use coupons! Michael’s Craft Store, Hobby Lobby, and Ace Hardware usually have coupons that you can use toward decorations. 
  • Photos and Cards – Many people plan their family photos at this time of year, print cards and send. Photography is expensive – not to say that a great professional photographer is worth the money – just saying maybe take those photos in September. Most photo print services like Shutterfly offer huge discounts if you order before the rush (plan for next year!)
  • Food -I’m not talking about the food that you make at home but the lunches out, dinners out and/or take out that you purchase because you have been shopping all day (or are still at the mall).  

It may be too late to plan these expenses already for this year (Hello, end of November – and December Budgeting), but you can put them in your budget next year and save yourself a lot of headache and money.

What tips do you have for staying on budget?

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