How To Not Blow Your Budget This Christmas

Every year thousands of families make a fresh decision to start living by a budget. They set up accounts on their home computer, begin to track everything they spend and set limits designed to help them save more and spend less.

My girlfriend is one of these new budget conscious families. She and her husband Pete set up some ambitious financial plans with the goal of paying off their credit card debt. They split their family income up into categories

Don't ruin your budget

Don’t ruin your budget

and were doing just great. That is until the holiday season came along.

As Shanelle scanned the family Christmas list she realized that the ‘gift giving category’ her and Pete had agreed to early in the year wasn’t going to cut it.

Pete, Shanelle and their two children sat down after dinner that night and laid out the situation. Christmas was a month away and the budget was clearly not going to buy the family the kind of presents that they were used to. They needed to make some decision together as a family. What did they want more? Expensive Christmas gifts or a shrunken credit card balance?

The secret to keeping a budget during the holidays is to:

  • Have a clear vision of your priorities. Remind yourself and your entire family of the reasons you had for getting on a budget in the first place.
  • Make a complete gift shopping list and then prioritize it according to your relationship with that person. Immediate family comes first, extended family, friends, co-workers, etc. Start at the bottom and cross off any names that absolutely don’t need to be there – then assign a portion of your budget to each of the remaining names.
  • Get creative with your gift giving. A day in the kitchen with the oven at 350 degrees will take care of a lot of people on your shopping list. A plate of homemade Christmas cookies is a welcome and touching gift.
  • Give up keeping up with the neighbors. The surest path to a blown budget is to start comparing what you’re doing with what someone else is doing. Remember, they’ll likely be crying come January.
  • Don’t start shopping too early. Many a Mom has spent their entire holiday budget before Thanksgiving thinking she’s a smart cookie to get it all out of the way. Then the Christmas sales kick in and she’s kicking herself and thinking ‘Well I can spend just a little bit more can’t I?”.
  • Final rule: No impulse buying. If someone gives you an unexpected gift, it doesn’t mean you have to run out and buy them something – that’s what ‘Thank You’ is for.

By keeping their goals in mind and recruiting the support of their children, Pete and Shanelle survived the holidays within their budget. As their gift to each other they wrote an extra payment to the credit card company. If they keep that up, they’ll be celebrating a debt free Christmas next year.

By Cozette M. White