With autumn here and winter fast approaching, we move into the festive “holiday season”! For some though, this time of year is also wallet-draining, stress-inducing and all-around nerve-wracking!
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are some tips to make it though the holidays with your budget (and nerves) still intact.
HAVE A PLAN
Before the holidays even begin, sit down and outline your thoughts and expectations for each upcoming event. Let your thoughts run free and jot them down; having a calender with you may help. It’s not set in stone but it’s at least a rough outline of what the next few months may hold.
Questions you might ask yourself:
- What parties will you be attending?
- What parties will you be hosting?
- Are you making or buying costumes and/or gifts for the family this year?
- Are you going to be traveling?
- What school events are coming up that will require money?
- Are there special outfits that you’ll need to buy for upcoming events/pictures?
- What are your New Year’s Eve plans?
DEVELOP A HOLIDAY BUDGET
Break down the holidays and roughly plan out how much you’ll be spending on each event. After all, the extra holiday expenses have to come from somewhere…and you should not be running up your credit cards or spending money you don’t have!
- How much will you be spending on Halloween costumes and candy?
- Is your biggest Thanksgiving expense in preparing the big meal or in travel costs?
- In regards to Christmas or Hanukkah gifts, come up with an amount that you plan to spend on each person. Keep track and stick with it!
Spend where it most makes sense to you and your family and shift around your budget as needed. It’s easy to get carried away with the holiday spirit and overspend. This is one time of the year where you may need to put a hold on your credit card use to resist overspending and use cash only instead.
MAKE YOUR LISTS
About six months before Christmas, I start taking notes for gift ideas. I keep a spreadsheet of past gifts and take note of what was a “success” and what was a “flop”. I use that history to make my gift list for the year. I write down what I have for ideas (private Pinterest boards are good for this too) and then mark what I’ve actually purchased. This is also where I note the price so I’m keeping within my budget.
- If you are hosting a party or a big dinner, make a list of the foods you’ll be preparing including all the ingredients. Work those costs into your holiday budget.
- Make a gift list for each family and friend you plan on purchasing for. Keep that list updated as you buy so you avoid overspending.
Keep track of what you are buying. It’s very easy to overbuy if you are shopping early and stashing the gifts away. My mom was notorious for finding a gift she’d misplaced and giving it to us in March!
TRIM YOUR LISTS
Now’s the time to review your list and pare it down. Even if you feel like you’re already being frugal, see where you can cut back. Do you feel that you overbuy when it comes to your kids or are the things you buy even getting used or played with? Gifts should be thoughtful and not just “filler” under the tree.
- Can’t afford to hand out candy this year? Do like we do and take the kids out trick-or-treating throughout the neighborhoods so you aren’t home to answer your door.
- For the big Thanksgiving meal don’t take it upon yourself to provide the entire spread. Contact your guests at least a few weeks in advance to request they bring a dish large enough to share.
- Think before you purchase Christmas gifts. Is that stocking stuffer going to end up at the bottom of the toy box by December 26th? Are the things on your list meaningful and purposeful for the recipient? If not, take them off the list.
- Instead of buying a gift for every single person in the office bring in a special treat on December 1st to kick off the Christmas season instead.
STOCK UP & USE COUPONS
In November you’ll start to see the fronts of the grocery stores stocked with “holiday essentials” like pumpkin pie filling, canned cranberries, stuffing mix, etc. And the mailers will come pouring in with coupons for those exact same items as well. Now’s your chance to stock up and save! If you know you’ll be using these items before the end of the year then by all means, buy them at the best price you can.
This is also the perfect time to pick up a few extra items to donate to your local food pantry or soup kitchen.
PICK AND CHOOSE
The invitations are rolling in and it’s not uncommon to have every single weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas booked with holiday events. Choose your favorite events and respectfully decline the others. You certainly don’t have to feel obligated to attend them all, especially if there is an expense tied to each event.
TAKE THE FOCUS OFF “STUFF”
If your holidays are more stress-inducing than joyous and you can’t for the life of you even remember what you bought your kids for Christmas last year, it might be time to get back to the basics of the holidays and take the focus off the stuff.
Meditate on what each holiday means to you and your family and make that “thing” your seasonal motto. Creating traditions and memories are the heart of a holiday!
- I know a family that doesn’t celebrate Halloween but instead uses that day to take their family on a local hike through their mountains. It’s their family tradition and something they all look forward to each October 31st.
- If it’s most important to you that your family be together on Thanksgiving Day then it really won’t matter if your table settings coordinate.
- Capture the meaning of the season and ask your family what their favorite part of the Christmas season is. I asked my kids what their favorite part of the holidays is and the answers were surprising. My daughter said, “Going to church” and my son said “All the good food”. Neither of them said “presents”. For me, I love lighting a fire and curling up in a blanket to talk with my family. Only the Christmas tree is lit and there is a magical feeling in the air. To me, that is the epitome of the holidays. Find your holiday “sweet spot” and make sure to hit it each year!
DIY (OR BUY HANDCRAFTED)
Is there something on the list that you could make yourself? Or at the very least that you could purchase from someone else who made it by hand? Consider supporting small businesses (like those on Etsy), rather than padding pockets of big box stores.
Ideas for handcrafted items –
- Make or buy handcrafted Halloween costumes or accessories.
- Consider sewing up your own table runner and coordinating cloth napkins for a special Thanksgiving table setting.
- Make or buy handmade coordinating pajama pants for the kids to wear on Christmas morning. Hair bows are perfect to stuff in a stocking. Unique handcrafted jewelry is plentiful on Etsy. Appliqued tees are so cute for the kids to wear for holiday parties. Bake your favorite brownies or give a jar of your favorite salad dressing…I promise you, everyone loves a handmade gift!
Budget extremely tight? Reverting to going the creative route instead of store-bought can be more meaningful all around.
- No money for Halloween costumes? Simply put an outfit together with items you already own. One of my favorite Halloween costumes was as a gypsy with a long patchwork skirt and layers of my grandmother’s costume jewelry.
- Bring the outside in for Thanksgiving by decorating with leaves and pine cones instead of store-bought decor.
- Consider a thoughtful Christmas card with a “coupon” for your services. Perhaps you have a friend who loves your homemade tamales; You could offer an afternoon of cooking classes where you teach her how to make them! Kids in particular love the coupon book idea so this would be a great stocking stuffer for them! Give coupons for a family movie night in the living room, one night of their choosing to stay up 30 minutes later than bedtime, a “spa” day complete with at-home pedicures or even just an extra storybook on a night of their choosing.
- Skip the grand ballroom on New Year’s Eve and get comfy in your pajamas at home. We love to have an appetizer-only dinner and snack on all the homemade treats that our friends gave us at Christmas. We stay up late and play Scrabble. For little ones you could ring in the New Year of a different time zone and send them off to bed.
With a little preparation, all wallet-hardship and stress-inducing thoughts should be minimized. Here’s to having Happy Holidays!
What ideas do you have for preparing for the holidays? Share them in the comments.