It's Easy to Overspend at Christmas.
Black Friday whips people into a shopping frenzy.
The flyers, catalogues and cupons are filling up your mailbox.
Between the music and the well placed ads there's lots of pressure to buy and to buy as soon as possible.
And of course, there's all that entertaining to do!
It's no wonder so many people find in hard to get through the holiday season without their bank accounts and credit cards severly bruised.
Even people who are good money managers throughout the year can succumb to the pressure.
It doesn't have to be that way. All you need is a plan.
And by a plan, I mean a budget. Are you ready to get started?
Getting to Work on the Christmas Budget
A holiday budget is more successful if a couple, or in some cases, the whole family works on it.
When everybody agrees what the priorities and and what sacrifices can be made, there is more buy-in and a greater chance you'll be able to stick with the plan.
Start with a figure you plan to spend around the holidays, say $1000. I know some of you are thinking that amount of money doesn't buy much of a Christmas. Other have plans to spend no where there much.
You can use whatever dollar figure you want.
In the first part of the exercise, put down what you would normally spend. Don't be extravagant, but don't cut back on the expenses either.
This is on top of your regular grocery bill. It includes the lavish turkey dinner, the home baking, the filled candy dishes and nut bowls.
You'll also probably want alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks on hand when company comes .
If you planning to throw a party yourself, plan for a jump in these expenses.
If you are planning to attend a company party or a get together with friends or family will you be expected to alcohol, a potluck dish or a gift for the hostess?
Will you need taxis or babysitters?
How about something new to wear?
DECORATIONS and MISC:
Are you buying a new tree this year?
Will you have to travel for the holidays?
Other holiday related expenses.
Christmas Gifts - Where the Money Goes
Now let's start working on the tough part.
Make a list of the Christmas gifts you'd like to give this year and what they cost.
Again, keep it realistic.
Don't forget Those "standby" gifts for unexpected company.
If you usually buy a gift for your child's teacher, your postman or other service provider, don't forget to include them on the list.
Now it's time to add them all up.
How did you do?
If you're within ten percent of your budget you get a gold star.
If you came in at or under budget, you get a platinum star.
For the rest of us mere mortals, it's time to get to work.
The more detailed your list, the easier it will be to decide where to make cuts and trim the fat.
Do you really need a twenty pound turkey, when a fifteen pound bird will do?
Can you save money on generic or "no name" foods?
Would you be willing to serve as the designated driver at one of your holiday events to save money on drinks and taxis?
Gift giving often creates some tough choices.
Can you create some home made gifts?
Is there something in your home that you can re-gift? I'm not suggesting junk, but perhaps you have something you bought or were given that's just not for you.
Last year, when I was cleaning out the basement. I found a set of Christmas stemware still in the box. I wasn't crazy about them, so I gave them to my neighbor as a gift. She loves them.
Be realistic with your family about your Christmas budget, particularly your older children. They should have a good sense of how much you plan to spend. That way, they won't wake up Christmas morning disappointed that they didn't receive the big ticket gift they were hoping for.
If you have a large family or group of friends that you routinely buy Christmas gifts for, consider drawing names so everyone can buy one quality gift instead of a lot of cheap ones.
A few years ago our family agreed to a fifty dollar limit on Christmas gifts. It was one of the best moves we ever made. Now everyone knows how much money they can spend and we've all received many creative and appreciated gifts. It certainly has taken a lot of the stress out of the holiday season.
These are all decisions for you and your family to make. The goal is to make sure the joy of Christmas is not replaced by the hangover of credit card debt in the new year.