Inside: Unplanned expenses can break the bank during the holidays if you’re not careful. Be prepared with a holiday budget plan to protect you against these seven sneaky expenses.
Today’s the day after Halloween. Also known as “binge eat your kids’ Halloween candy day.” As I walk over to our family wall calendar and turn the page, panic sets in. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach and a lump in my throat.
I’ve only had two “fun-sized” Kit-Kats—so it’s not the chocolate…yet.
It’s November 1st.
Also known as the start of the holiday season! So much to do, so little time. But the biggest dark cloud looming over my head is our budget—or lack there of.
Typically, this is the time of year where, even with the BEST intentions, our budget has a way of blowing up on us. The events and gifts that tend to get the best of us leave a sting that lasts well into February as the credit card statements roll in.
Not this year. This is the year we’ll be giving our family the gift of a well-planned holiday season. Right down to a well-executed holiday budget our bank account will thank us for come January.
How are we going to make the change? I’m so glad you asked!
Read on to learn how we’ll be rocking our holiday budget this year…and you can too.
Getting Intentional by Creating a Holiday Budget Plan
There are two ways to do the holidays:
#1. Treat it as if it’s an emergency. You know the drill. Throw everything on the credit card now, and worry about it later. Falling into this autopilot spending trap is easy to do. It can happen to those of us with the best intentions when we’ve been too busy to properly prepare.
This last-minute mindset can cause a lot of needless stress. I’ll admit, it feels good in the moment to buy the perfect gifts throwing caution to the wind with cost. But you’ll be paying for it in more ways than one when the bills start rolling in in January.
I’m guessing you’ve been there before too? And that you’re bound and determined not to let it happen to you again this year.
Before anything else, preparation is key to success.Alexander Graham Bell
#2 is the intentional way. It’s the one where you’ve taken time in advance to plan and get ahead of those things. Because, the holidays aren’t only the most magical time of year, they’re the most expensive too.
There are parties and events to attend, gifts to give, and traditions to be honored. All of which will cost you extra money.
Get ready to read through the potential budget busters below, and be sure to save a spot in your holiday budget for each.
So that, come January 1st, you can leave 2019 where it belongs instead of dragging your unpaid holiday expenses into the new year.
Account for Everything
Holiday budgets aren’t just for gifts. This time of year is all about events, activities food and outfits. AND, they cost money. Here’s how you can plan ahead now to ensure you have an awesome holiday season without sacrificing your financial bottom-line to do it.
1. Events & Activities
Getting intentional with your time is a major factor in winning with your budget. After all, the holiday activities you plan create the traditions you’ll love and memories your family will cherish for a lifetime!
Personally, I have great memories of our family getting dressed up and going to see the Nutcracker each year. Each city we lived in offered up a different and wonderful experience.
Denver, San Francisco, Detroit, Manhattan… Sure, it was special to me as a kid.
But the real gift is the memories those outings created. I’ve held on to those special memories through the years. And, now Erik & I are excited to carry this tradition on with our own children as well.
Thinking back to your childhood, what activities and traditions make you feel nostalgic? How will you incorporate some of those same traditions into your immediate family’s life? What new traditions would you like to start with your family?
Activity: Sit down with your family to fill out a holiday bucket list of everything you’d like to do between Thanksgiving and New Years. Put the list on your refrigerator and have fun checking them off the list come November & December.
*You can also use this list to plan for additional funding you may need in the entertainment section of your budget to cover these costs.
Related Post: Giving the Gift of Presence
2. Family Photos
There are so many great ways to do family photos this time of year.
Whether your preferred method is a professional mini session or that classic shot with Santa at the mall, it deserves a special spot in your holiday budget.
- It’s a great opportunity to acquire some quality photos of your family to frame & put up around your house.
- These pictures make great holiday cards.
- Mini sessions are EVERYWHERE right now. These are basically 15-30 minute photoshoots in a themed setting. The shorter durations help keep the price down– and is perfect for the short attention span of littles. Be on the lookout for mini sessions NOW because they tend to book up FAST.
The best places to find them? I have great luck on Facebook. Search in local mom’s groups or even just searching photographers in your area. Take a look around their page and, if there’s nothing listed, send them a quick message to get the 411.
There are so many great ways to do family photos this time of year. Whether your preferred method is a professional mini session or that classic shot with Santa at the mall, it deserves a special spot in your holiday budget.
3. Holiday Attire
The holidays are the time of year where getting dressed up is a given.
Seeing relatives at Thanksgiving, holiday parties and Christmas church service all call for spiffy new attire.
Be sure to save some room in the budget! But how much or how little you’ll need can vary greatly.
Save some cash by shopping at second hand stores. They can be SUCH a great place to get dressy clothes since they’re usually worn once or twice during the holidays (and then outgrown). You’ll probably be able to find a TON in like-new condition. Be sure to take your outgrown outfits in to sell. You can typically get cash or store credit— helping to keep the cost down on this year’s outfits.
4. Greeting Cards
Now that you’ve got those gorgeous family pictures, it’s time to show them off with a holiday greeting card! Done right, you can score some great deals on holiday photo cards.
There are a million great ones to choose from these days. Some key things to consider are price, printing and delivery options and design options. Most companies offer personalized envelope options, while others will go so far as to also print your recipient’s address as well. Check out Minted for some beautiful options.
Here’s a great holiday card round-up from Refinery 29 on card companies to choose from.
Holiday cards can run anywhere from $50+ (depending on how many you need). And don’t forget to budget for postage! Forever Stamps currently cost $.50 each (rising to $.55 in February.). These stamps are good for forever, regardless of what you paid for them. (Hence the name! So, if it’s in the budget, stock up now, and save some cash on next year’s cards too. Costco will be selling 100 Forever Stamps for $49.75 through February 17, 2020.
5. Gift Giving
Giving gifts is definitely one of the most fun parts of the season. It is also one of the easiest areas to lose control of your budget if you aren’t intentional and strategic about how and what you buy.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Who will you be buying gifts for this year? Make a list of everyone you plan to buy for–and how much you plan to spend on each.
2. What’s your total gift budget? When it’s all said and done—how much money do you want to set aside to cover the cost of gifts this year? From there, allocate a dollar amount to everyone you have listed.
*Check out these other great resources for tips on budgeting for Christmas: Budgeting Made Easy & EveryDollar.
3. Will you be part of any gift exchanges or donation programs through your kids’ school or your church?
If you’ll be traveling for the holidays, this will definitely add some extra expenses. Be sure to factor in for extra gas and road trip food (if driving) or cost of other travel (air, train, etc.). What about some games and activities to keep the kids entertained while on the road? Will Fido be traveling with you or will you need to account for kennel or pet sitter costs? Don’t forget about hotel accommodations and/or gifts for the host and chipping in for meals and food once at your final destination!
7. Getting Festive with Food
November and December are unique in that, along with the regular meal planning, you’ll also need to plan for the bigger holiday meals. Here are some things to keep in mind for each of the big holidays.
Will you be hosting Thanksgiving or having a quiet holiday with immediate family only? This matters, because if you’re headed to Grandma’s house, you’ll need to account for, not only your world-famous pumpkin pie, but also any travel costs and gifts you’ll be bringing.
Christmas & New Year’s
A lot of the same points above are relevant for Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Since we live far from family, we’ve grown accustomed to spending a quiet Christmas at home. Our typical Christmas-eve is low-maintenance. We eat a light lunch and fill up on cookie dough as we make those fresh, delicious cookies for Santa.
Nighttime is usually packed with festive activities & traditions like going to church, driving around to see Christmas lights and opening a few small gifts rom relatives. So we plan fun appetizers or pizza for our evening meal.
We like a great make-ahead breakfast casserole that we can throw into the oven to have baking while we spend time watching our kids tear through the gifts that Santa brought.
We usually do a larger meal as an early dinner. It’s not unusual for us to spend $100+ just for the foods we’ll consume between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
New Year’s is much the same! Our family loves splurging on fun appetizers and hors d’oeuvres on New Year’s Eve. New Year’s day is all about a good breakfast and large, early dinner.
Alexander Graham Bell was one smart cookie.
He had it right when he said: “Before any success, preparation is key.” So, even if today hit you by surprise, like it did me, there’s still plenty of time to plan and make your holidays a success! Grab one last Kit-Kat and a pen to add a few line items and rock your holiday budget this year!
While you’re at it, grab your family and get going on that Holiday Bucket list!!!!
Because…this holiday season? It’s gonna be your best one yet!
P.S. If you’re looking for a great budgeting system, be sure to check out EveryDollar by Dave Ramsey. It’s totally free to use and has been a staple at our house in our monthly budgeting program.