With less than 5 weeks until Christmas, the pressure to buy presents starts earlier and earlier every year. And every year around this same time, most people stress about how they’re going to afford to give gifts to everyone they care about.
Setting a holiday budget is a good way to avoid the pitfalls of over-shopping and overspending. Come up with a plan of action now to avoid that last-minute pressure to spend more money than you have.
- Make a List (and Check it Twice): Like Santa, it’s a good idea to make a list of all the people you intend to shop for this year. Include family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone else you’d like to put on your gift list. Then go through the list and set a dollar limit for each person. Your kids and parents might have a large price tag, while neighbors max out at $5-and that’s okay. By knowing what you’re willing to spend on each person, you can have a better idea of what to expect as a final cost.
- Start Saving Early: Instead of paying for all the gifts at once, you can budget the holiday season all year round. Ideally, you should set aside some money every month for holiday gifts (even $50/month will net you $600 at the end of the year). If this isn’t possible, you can at least start shopping early. By grabbing some of the gifts in September, October, and November, you can avoid the last-minute pressure to pull out the credit cards come December.
- Pre-Shop Online (or in Catalogs): Some people know exactly what they want to buy as gifts, while others won’t know the perfect gift until they see it. Both of these work as approaches to gift giving, but it’s easier to stick to a budget if you have a good idea of what things cost. In your spare time, head to a few online shops or pick up catalogs at your favorite stores. You don’t have to buy anything yet, but you can get a good idea of what you can expect to pay for the items on your list. This is an especially helpful idea if you’ll be making some of the gifts, as you can start searching for ideas on Pinterest and other crafting websites.
- Buy in Bulk: Although you’ll want to personalize the gifts you give to those closest to you, it’s smart to buy in bulk for neighbors, coworkers, and the like. Consider baking a large batch of sweet treats, making mass quantities of sugar scrub from scratch, or brewing your own beer-these can be incredibly cost-effective and nice gifts if you have a large list of people to give to.
Above all else, keep track of your spending. The easiest way to break or go over a budget is to assume that you’re within your limits. By recording every purchase and making sure you aren’t going over, you’ll be much more likely to get through this holiday season with your wallet intact.