Top 10 Tips on Making (and Keeping!) a Holiday Budget

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It’s happened to almost everyone: You make a holiday shopping budget and vow to stick with it “no matter what.” But then you see the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for relative, or you buy another gift for your niece because you forgot that you already had her present, and all of the sudden your budget is blown and you can’t figure out how you lost “no matter what.”
The Painesville Credit Union elves have a few tips and tricks on how to make a holiday shopping budget and stick to it:

1. All great plans start with a list. Get out your notebook or create a spreadsheet of holiday expenses. Include people you need to buy for and gifts you wish to buy for them, charitable donations you plan to make, holiday cards and postage, decorations you want to buy, and the cost of big holiday meals. Many people only create a gift budget and forget to add in all the holiday “extras.” Don’t forget to factor in gift exchanges at work, tips and gifts for teachers, postal workers, garbage collectors, and anyone else you wish to thank during the holiday season. Also plan to give your children small budgets to purchase gifts for their friends and family members.
2. Decide how much you want to spend. That sounds easy, doesn’t it? Coming up with a set number to spend on the holidays as a whole – not just gifts – will help keep you from swiping a credit card as you get closer to the holidays.
3. Now break that budget down by person. Who are you buying for, how much do you want to spend on each person, and which gift do you want to give them? This is also a great way to brainstorm your gift ideas within your price range. Try to have two gift ideas for each person within your price range so you can shop holiday sales with flexibility.
4. Tracking your spending is the best tool to sticking to your budget. Even if you’re overspending and you know it, keep track of every dollar you spend! This will help you create a more realistic holiday budget next year. If you’re a holiday budget rockstar and you’re sticking to your list, tracking your spending becomes a roadmap for success for next year and beyond.
5. Use only cash. This is a swipe-the-card culture and carrying cash is the best way to curb overspending.
6. Some people love the Black Friday rush, but others enjoy online shopping in their pajamas. A well-planned Black Friday shopping adventure can save major money, but thoughtful comparison shopping online can be just as effective! (And don’t forget about Cyber Monday deals, too!)
7. Let’s face it, you can’t buy everything on sale online or in a big box store. Try to sprinkle in shopping at small, locally owned stores and boutiques. When you support a small business, you support a dream – and your community. Plan to buy several holiday gifts from small businesses in your town.
8. Consider gifting experiences instead of material things. Maybe your family would rather take a trip to an indoor water park or resort together instead of opening piles of gifts. Giving your sister’s family a gift card to the movies instead of buying each person an individual gift gives them time together as a family and saves you from running around looking for five gifts or more.
9. Suggest a holiday “re-gift” exchange at work. The rules are simple: There’s no set “budget” or minimum gift value. Everyone simply brings in a gift the received that they want to re-gift. You spend nothing and gain some valuable closet real estate by giving away a gift you didn’t want anyway!
10. Right after the holidays this year, open a dedicated savings account and set up an auto deposit from each paycheck.
“This can be as little as $5 or as much as you’d like to save,” Painesville Credit Union CEO Lori Guzzi said. “You won’t even miss it from your budget, and by the time Black Friday rolls around next year, you’ll have a nice holiday cash stash ready for shopping!”

On a budget? Download our FREE holiday gift budget worksheet.

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