The Holiday Season is peaceful and filling, a time to destress and spend time with friends and loved ones… is what we imagine. …But in all actuality it can often turn into just the opposite. The Holiday Season is fast paced and stretches us thin (mentally, physically and most certainly, our wallets), a time that stresses us with obligated time spent with friends and loved ones. Of course, the latter is not all true, but it can feel like it some days leading up to the climax of Christmas Day.
Here are my tips to enjoy the season to the fullest focusing on budgeting. You can’t rush it and wish it away. The Holidays are meant to be enjoyed (not some of it – all of it!), and you should because you only live once and many changes can happen in a year! Embrace it!
First thing first. Put your thinking cap on early, like right about now (or earlier), about gift giving. This alone can take a ton of stress away as the hustle and bustle of Christmas starts. My younger sister was hounding us at the end of September for our Christmas lists this year!
This in turn will make you start thinking about your budget and who exactly you are buying gifts for Christmas. Ask yourself questions like
– Who exactly do I need to get gifts for?
– Who do I want to get gifts for?
– What does my budget look like?
– Do I like how I have budgeted in the past or should I try something new?
– Do I need to place room in my budget for activities? Holiday activities with the kids, additional costs that may come with Christmas parties, decorations, etc..
I wish I would have had a better budget last year. I absolutely love going to the mall over the Holiday Season. It’s fun and joyful going with friends and family enjoying all the decorations and sitting down for lunch. However, my problem was I went quite a bit, but I wasn’t actively looking for gifts. It wasn’t until a week or so before Christmas I panicked and had to start buying. I couldn’t shop online anymore if I wanted anything to arrive by Christmas, so that left me trying to find time to shop. Frantic shopping is not fun with kids, I might add, or ever. It left me spending way over budget though because I had to just pick something out and buy it. Not ideal. Not fun. Not budget friendly in the slightest. Not thoughtful.
I have found that what has worked really well with me is to create a list of family and friends that gifts are necessary for and set a limit for each person you feel fit that works with your budget. You could say, with the amount of people I have listed and with my gift giving budget I can afford $30/ person this year. With this, you have to be very diligent in actually sticking to the budget when shopping! No impulse buys that are too expensive! That’s why you start early! Next, I list those that I would really like to give a gift too (but it’s not totally necessary to give them one) and set a monetary amount for each one as well. I find for this list the monetary amount is smaller and they are gifts such as homemade cookies or a much smaller purchase.
Another stress saver is to create traditions with your family whether they are big or small. This will allow you and your kids something to look forward too that is always the same. Traditions are fun and they can also take the guess work out. If you look for something new and exciting every year, it can leave you scrambling. My friend always gives her kids pajamas every Christmas Eve. The kids know and look forward to them – they get to open a gift on Christmas Eve!
One of my family’s traditions is to get up the day after Thanksgiving and find a Christmas Tree. We buy a real one each year and then we come home, make hot chocolate with big marshmallows and decorate the Christmas Tree with Christmas music. This is one that my husband and I have always done, but now with two little ones, I want to find a few more traditions to look forward to every year!
Also, along with decorating the Christmas Tree, don’t go crazy spending money on decorations. If there is no budget for extra spending use what decorations you do have this year and make sure you budget it in next year or even buy after the season is over and everything is on sale! Decorating is so much fun, but it is not an absolute necessity.
Lastly, don’t compare yourself to anyone. Especially in the area of gift giving. Everyone is at a different stage in their life and the comparison trap can leave you spending way more than you should and leave you feeling down and out. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” is a terribly over used cliche, but it really is true. If you really think about a person and know them you’ll find something perfect that they will love and the price tag won’t matter. I try to find something my friends and family will really love, but that is practical and will be used. I try to stay away from unuseful knick knacks that will end up in the near future, pushed aside or thrown away. Not a good use of the budget in my opinion.
I think we get tired during the Holiday Season because there is just so much more to think about and do, it seems like, compared to the rest of the year. But… to avoid some of the stress you’ve felt in the past, as I’ve said before, start early! You won’t regret it. Then, shopping is not a chore, you’re not desperately trying to find something before the shipping cutoff date for online shopping or you’re not running through the mall just about ready to purchase anything because you have just hours left. Which is what ends up happening.
Below are my 3 Christmas Budgeting tips:
– Start gift giving/ budgeting early
– Create lasting Holiday traditions
– Don’t Compare!
Gift giving is stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Start early, set a budget, give meaningful gifts and embrace the Holiday Season and Christmas for what it really is meant to be!
Love one another fiercely
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