The holiday season is upon us. We take this time to be with family, eat too much, and share gifts. However, sometimes holiday shopping can result in financial choices that make for a limited January. This year, take some advice from Dave Ramsey, of whom Stone Insurance Group is an endorsed local provider, regarding your holiday budget. According to Ramsey, the best way to enjoy the holiday without losing control of your money is by budgeting early for holiday costs. Here are some budget items you need to watch out for now so you don’t throw off your Christmas budget later.
Planning Your Holiday Budget
1. Divide your Christmas budget into categories
Of course, gifts are usually the largest Christmas budget expense (unless you’re decking out your house Clark Griswold style). Just remember you need to budget for all things Christmas—including decorations, wrapping paper, travel, festive meals, charitable donations, and anything else you’re planning to do over the holidays.
Once you’ve figured out how much you can spend on Christmas, do some simple math. Take your number—let’s say $500—and think over your seasonal expenses. You’ll need money for travel ($50), a tree and trimmings ($70), a few potluck parties ($30), and some extra giving ($50). Then there’s the big one: Christmas gifts ($300). Make a goal amount and stick to it! You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can pile up a stash of cash when you just make a point to save.
Now that you have your Christmas budget all set, you know how much you’ll need to add to your Christmas fund. As long as you plan where your money will go before you spend it, there’s no right or wrong way to split up your Christmas budget. Plus, if that Douglas Fir goes on sale or you throw a potluck to cut back on groceries, you’ll have more money to splurge on your loved ones.
2. Write down who you need to buy gifts for
Since you know exactly how much you can spend on gifts, decide who gets what. Make a list of everyone you’ll buy for this year. And we mean everyone—coworkers, church friends, parents, kids, grandkids. Next to each name (or category, if you’re budgeting a treat for the office), write a specific dollar amount.
If you don’t have enough money to cover everyone on your list, rethink how much you’ll spend on each person. Maybe you can agree to only buy for the kids. Or perhaps you can draw names instead of buying for multiple families. And baked goods or homemade crafts are always on the table! Who doesn’t love a gift that comes fresh out of the oven or straight from the heart?
3. Plan Christmas meals
Are you hosting Christmas dinner for your family or bringing your favorite side dish to a potluck? Plan your Christmas recipes ahead of time so you can wow friends and family with your cooking (and budgeting) abilities. If you are hosting out-of-town family for more than a day, you’ll want to budget even more for extra meals and restaurant visits.
4. Pet boarding and holiday travel
Just because you got an invitation to Aunt Betsy’s fancy Christmas party two states over doesn’t mean Fido did. If your pet isn’t making the trip with you, make sure to budget for boarding fees.
Plane tickets and hotel rooms aren’t the only travel costs to account for this time of year. Snacks at the airport, Uber or cab rides, parking garages, tips, and extra gas money are some of the smaller expenses that can slip under your radar.
5. Expect higher utility costs
Lower temperatures mean higher heating bills. Keep your budget from getting burned by upping the amount you plan to pay for your utilities. You’ll be prepared for the higher bills, plus you’ll get a Christmas treat if it ends up costing less than what you planned! When you make a plan for your money each month, you’ll have more peace of mind. Talk about a holly, jolly Christmas!
Unwrapping Low-Cost Christmas Cheer
Now that you’ve got your budget covered, let’s dive into all the holiday fun coming your way! Too many people think you have to spend big bucks to have memorable Christmas fun. They splurge on gifts, traveling, food, and festivities, and then shrug it off by saying, “Oh well, it’s Christmas.”
That creates Santa-sized trouble if your money is tight. It’s a better idea to go for less expensive holiday activities that help you keep your cash in your pocket. Is that even possible? Yes! Check out our six ways to have a wonderful Christmastime at little cost:
1. Decorate cookies together
Buy some sugar cookie mix at the store along with sweet toppings like icing, candy canes and sprinkles. Spend an afternoon baking and decorating the cookies while listening to your favorite Christmas songs. It’s a great way to get yourself into the Yuletide spirit.
2. Have a Christmas movie marathon
From It’s a Wonderful Life to Elf, there are tons of classic films you can stream online or check out from the library. Pull out the blankets, pair those yummy cookies with some hot chocolate, and gather the family for a merry movie marathon.
3. Make your own crazy Christmas carols
This is just like Mad Libs but with a holiday twist. Black out certain words in your favorite Christmas songs. Ask your family members to suggest nouns, verbs, numbers and so on. Then sing the new lyrics and get your caroling on.
4. Have a sock snowball fight
Gather every pair of (hopefully clean) socks you can find and ball them up until they’re the size of snowballs. Then move some furniture, pile the socks in the center of the room, and let the battle begin! Oh, and keep your head down!
5. Go on a scavenger hunt
Make a list of holiday items to find—maybe a stuffed reindeer, a seven-foot tree or a roll of wrapping paper with snowmen on it. Spend the day searching and determine a prize for locating everything!
6. Look at Christmas lights
Here’s a timeless family favorite—basking in the glow of beautiful Christmas lights. Make some hot chocolate, toss it in to-go cups, create a Christmas playlist, and hit the road to take in the holiday lights around your neighborhood.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the Christmas season, even with a limited budget. A Merry Christmas doesn’t depend on how much money you spend. It’s about the people you’re sharing time with and the memories you’re creating along the way. Anyone can do it—no elves required.
If you’re conscious about saving money, there’s no better place to shop for insurance than Stone Insurance Group. Our insurance brokerage shops for the best insurance policies and prices that suit your needs. Contact us today for a free quote. It’s easy! View our online quotes page, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (832) 403-2066.