Our holiday budget is $245, everything included: presents, holiday cards and postage, and decorations. That's all I could wrangle out of our budget. Isn't bad, considering the first contribution toward $245 came out of a 10/30/09 paycheck. Eventually these weddings have to slow down, and we'll be able to start saving for the holidays earlier in the year. If I get a holiday bonus, a little may go to bolster the budget, but most will go to debt, with 20% to the emergency fund. Resisting the urge to buy a new camera. Resisting, resisting, resisting.....
Quick & Dirty
- Presents: $165
- Everything Else: $80
Last year was the first we came close to realistic about how much money we could spend on the holidays. I worked my rear off to get somewhat nice presents on a very small budget, and decorate my house to host a holiday family celebration for the first time. At least I remember working my rear off. I realized when I recently started looking for my notes about last year that I had notes scattered and a bit incoherent. I had to pull a Quicken report to figure out exactly how much I spent.
Our planned holiday budget was actually a little higher last year: $255. I said above that we came close to realistic, which is laughable, since we ended up spending $382.32, which is $127.32 over budget. However, compared to what we spent in previous years, it's progress. We spent $62.25 on decorations, $41.46 on holiday cards, and $278.61 on presents. I'll break this down in future posts to look at each category, and see where the weaknesses were.
Tips for setting a holiday budget
- Once Halloween starts showing up in stores, start thinking about a budget and presents. Ideally, this would happen throughout the year, but who's perfect? Get started around Halloween and you should be fine.
- Sit down early with a schedule of paychecks and bills through the end of the year and find where you can make some room for holiday expenditures. It's not a bad idea to extend the schedule through the first or second paycheck of January. We're lucky that my husband gets paid biweekly, and I budget for just two paychecks for him per month. October is usually a 3-paycheck month, so the money gets divvyed up between the holidays and debt paydown.
- When you're making progress on paying down debt, it's hard to not feel guilty about spending money on the holidays, but we're human and winter celebrations are important. You don't have to spend a lot of money, you could still have a joyful holiday on $40 or $50. It may take a lot of creativity and time, but it's worth it. Even just writing a letter to your loved ones, telling them what you've appreciated about them in the past year, is a simple and inexpensive way to show you care.
- Use store coupon's from retailers like Michael's to slowly purchase decorations over a couple of weeks and keep it simple.
- Use programs like Ebates or Upromise to get cash back for your expenditures from online retailers. Research shipping codes to or plan purchases to get free shipping.
- Plan, plan, plan. If you know what you're up against, it's not nearly as stressful.
Simple Mom has a great series about breaking up holiday tasks to manageable chunks. She started in early October with the "12 Weeks to a Peaceful Christmas" series, and each post is full of great ideas. She starts with setting a budget, so make sure to check it out.
2009 Christmas Budget Series