With the holidays approaching, holiday spending and BUDGETING is on all of our minds. (Or at least it should be, right?!) Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer vacation, and any other large get togethers that you may put on during the year can really throw your normal budget off if you’re not prepared for them.
*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
I’ve gotten tons of questions lately on my Instagram about how to budget for the holidays, so I wanted to give you all of my tips and tricks! Not only is it totally doable to budget for your holiday spending, but it’s also really easy once you get it figured out.
So calm down, get comfy, and get excited about these holiday budgeting tips that are coming atcha! Make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube Channel for new videos every Thursday!
Click to watch the video ONLINE HERE, or keep scrolling to watch below:
That doesn’t sound too scary or hard, right? It really is so easy! Now that you’re a holiday budget master, keep on reading for a little refresher.
MAJOR HOLIDAY SPENDING AREAS
Before you can get your holiday spending budget set, you’ve got to take a few things into account. Once you get these figured out, you’ll quickly be on your way to setting your budget!
Thank goodness you really only have to worry about buying gifts for Christmas! They can be a major component of your holiday spending. You should try to be vigilant with who you’re giving gifts to and how much you’re spending on them.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON GIFTS
The best tip for buying gifts is to start early. Way early. The best time of year to buy gifts to last you all year is right after Christmas! Stores are looking to get rid of inventory as the new year approaches. Keep your eyes peeled for good deals all year long, even right after Christmas. Just be sure to keep track of what you buy and have an exact person in mind or else the gift could go to waste.
NOTE: If you are not an organized person and don’t think you’ll be able to keep up with your spending that early, then forget what you just read!!! Yes, seriously. Only buy early if you are super organized and will be able to keep up with who you bought it for and how much you spent all. year. long. If that’s not you, then don’t start your holiday spending until 60-90 days out.
Get creative with your gifts. It's inevitable, the less money you are able to spend on a gift, the more thoughtful and creative you have to be. That equates in better gifts! Get the best gift giving hacks and how much we suggest spending on gifts in THIS post.
Oh, and a little PSA for ya… Gifts are NOT NEEDED for every holiday! You should train yourself to work the celebrating of holidays into your standard monthly budget. Aim for giving Christmas, birthday, and maybe anniversary gifts. That's it.
No Easter gifts for the kids (aside from eggs and candy), no Valentine's gifts (go on a nice date or make gifts for each other). Really, you do NOT need to be buying extravagant gifts for every holiday. You can't take that stuff with ya, people!
Unless you live really close to family or don’t go anywhere for the holidays, there’s a good chance that there will be some kind of travel involved in your holiday or family vacation. Therefore, you need to travel wisely!
Consider driving if you have a large family or are going somewhere that is a maximum of 12 hours away. While flying may be easier, driving is so much cheaper! If you do have to fly, Southwest is always a good option. Their flights are usually the cheapest and your bags fly free, score! Get more tips for finding the best airfare in THIS post. (If you travel a lot, then make sure that you check out the most common travel expenses and how to avoid them HERE.)
For help booking hotels and finding tickets to attractions during your travel, I always recommend a reliable travel agent like Get Away Today! Their services are usually free to you, but they help keep everything organized AND help you to find the best deals while you're there.
HOSTING GUESTS AND COOKING
Winner, winner, chicken dinner, we’ve got our most common holiday spending area right here! It doesn’t matter what you’re celebrating – holiday, get together, or family vacation – there’s a pretty good chance that food is going to be involved. As you know with your regular grocery budget, food can get expensive quick! That’s why you need to account for it in your holiday budget.
Here are a few tips to help to keep it in check so that you’re not going over budget:
- Enlist help. If you’re hosting a holiday, especially Thanksgiving or Christmas, don’t feel bad about asking your guests to bring something with them for dinner! Even if they’re from out of town, divide the food responsibilities so that it alleviates some of the cost for you. There are grocery stores everywhere, so let them buy one component of dinner and cook it in your kitchen! It's very easy for someone to run to Costco and buy a pumpkin pie, or buy a bag of potatoes and make the mashed potatoes for dinner. Don't feel bad asking people to help contribute when you are the host/hostess!
- Use the tips from THIS post to ensure that you’re getting the absolute best bang for your buck at the grocery store. If you have to buy groceries, then you might as well save money on them!
- Utilize Grocery Pickup services! No joke, you won't be tempted while you're walking down the aisles and BAM a delicious Reese's Christmas Tree is sitting right in front of you. Just do it all online and you never have to worry about that temptation (in person) again!
HOW TO FIND YOUR HOLIDAY SPENDING BUDGET
Now that you’re a master and know all about the areas to consider for your holiday spending, you can work on your budget! Follow these quick and easy steps to get your holiday budget figured out.
- You will most likely need a holiday budget for November, December, and any other get together or family vacation that you routinely do during the year.
- Look at what you spent last year to get a good starting point. If that number shocks you (and don’t be surprised if it does!), then consider cutting it by a third. You could even cut it by half if it was really high and see where that gets you!
- Break down your budget for each holiday:
- If it's a holiday that requires gifts, decide how many people you are buying gifts for, and how much you expect to spend on each person (find a range suggestion HERE).
- Calculate your travel expenses as accurately as possible, taking into effect inflating gas prices.
- Plan your holiday entertaining food/decor in advance. This may be a little hard, but use your best guess on what all you would need. Try your best to calculate the cost of cooking the big meal and any other food that you may have. Get some great tips for entertaining on a budget HERE!
- Add each of those three factors up, and now you have your total budget for that specific holiday. Do this for each individual holiday you need extra budgeted money for. (This is NOT for small holidays! Work small holidays into your regular monthly budget using self-control. This should ONLY be for the big ones like Christmas and Thanksgiving, if you travel.)
- Once you've added up that holiday's budget, try to be conservative and consider cutting 10% or 20% off the top of that budget so you are forced to be wise and frugal with your spending this season.
SET ASIDE YOUR HOLIDAY BUDGET
Now that you know how much your budget is for each holiday, how do you set that money aside throughout the year? It’s pretty simple, really. Turn it into a monthly budget. Take the total budget for each of those holidays, add them together, and divide the total by 12 (for 12 months in a year). Ideally, you should set your budget at the beginning of the year so that you have plenty of time to save up before the holiday, especially Christmas.
You should set aside that budget each month, as if you were paying a monthly bill. That way when the holiday comes, you have the money already set aside and you have been chipping away at that budgeted amount all year. Won’t that be nice instead of it smacking you in the face when the holiday sneaks up on you?!
You should automatically draft this money aside into your Family Regular Savings Account each month. If you don’t know what this is, your FRSA is an account that you use to save up for anticipated expenses. This is NOT an account you should pull money from often. It's a holding tank for you to transfer money to regularly in anticipation of upcoming large expenses. If you want more details about this account, check out THIS post.
SPEND YOUR HOLIDAY BUDGET WISELY
Not all holidays are the same. Thanksgiving probably won't cost you as much as Christmas because you don't give gifts at Thanksgiving. Even though you have extra money set aside for ALL the holidays, you need to really keep track of how much that SPECIFIC holiday budget is. If not, then you’ll end up spending more on a holiday than you budgeted for, which will take away from another holiday’s budget amount.
HOW TO KEEP TRACK OF YOUR HOLIDAY SPENDING
This is my tip of all tips, so listen up! Once you have your budget set, use my handy dandy holiday budget tracker envelopes to keep track of each budgeted event’s amount. Keep one for each holiday or get together and write down when you purchase something for that event. Keep an eye on it and you won’t have to worry about going over your holiday budget again!
It’s so important to spend your money wisely. It’s possible to budget for all of your holidays while still saving money in the long run! Follow these tips and you’ll have a holiday budget that’s easy to follow in no time. Do you already have your holiday spending budgets set up? Let us know what your favorite tricks are to sticking to them in the comments!
Need more help with your budget? Don't forget about my Secret Sauce online budgeting program, Budget Boot Camp! BBC is a super fun 27-video program that makes money easy to understand. All you need is a screen and you're set!
And don't forget, if you don't save at LEAST what you paid for the program, I'll refund every dime. You've got nothing to lose (except your debt)! Use the code FCFBLOG to get an extra 10% off, because I love you 😉
Looking for more ideas for the holidays?
- Get the ultimate holiday bucket list and kick that Christmas break boredom to the curb!
- Get some great tips on how to save money on your Thanksgiving dinner.
- See how to make your own Christmas traditions amazing.
Follow those simple steps and you'll be rolling in all the extra money you save this year. 🙂