6 Ways to Stick to Your Budget During the Holiday Season

November and December are the highest grossing months of the year for American retailers. Last year, holiday sales topped $655.8 billion. This year, “the National Retail Federation projects sales to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion…” (NRF.com). Billions of dollars are spent on gifts, food, and “catching sales” all within a period of 45-60 days!  Although I love to spend, spending has created a ton of stress, arguments and massive debt for our family; as a result, we learned early in our marriage to create a spending plan during the holiday season.

Here are six things you can implement over the holidays to ensure you spend what you HAVE not just what you WANT.

Determine how much “extra” money you have to spend over the holidays.

Since we create our monthly budget at the beginning of the year we plan ahead for the holiday season. We determine how much money we will have to spend on Christmas gifts, Christmas meals, travel and try to forecast any “miscellaneous” we may incur as well.. This way we properly save, budget, and use our “extra” planned money to make purchases (not our bill money) so we will not have to worry about how we are going to pay the electricity bill come January.

Determine what and who you will spend money on.

Once you know how much you have to spend, now you are able to work backwards to determine who you are purchasing the gifts for, whether or not you will celebrate at home or out-of-town, and others. We have learned that it is “Ok” if we do not get EVERYONE a gift. If we do not have the money, we can’t purchase the gift. I have always been a stickler for ensuring we do not “go broke” during the holidays. I do not try to “impress” people and I do not allow people to put me on a “guilt trip” because I cannot go on a holiday trip or buy them an extravagant gift…and neither should you! Therefore, when my siblings and I began getting married and having children, we quickly discussed how we were going to handle gifts during the holidays…and so far, our plan has worked well!

Set a limit for each gift, meals and holiday activities.

Once we know how much money we have, what/who we are spending the money on, then we can determine how much money we have on each gift, on groceries, eating out and holiday excursions. I write a list with names and amounts we have to spend (I actually use the checklist on Evernote or Reminder on my phone so I can check gifts off once I purchase them). This helps when we are out shopping (or online shopping) and keeps me focused.

Find the Sales!

I love to find bargains, but I do not like doing it if I have to fight through clothing racks, stores or parking lots to get to it. My husband and I “did” Black Friday at Wal-Mart one year and let’s just say he told me he would never do another Black Friday again…he’s a man of his words; he hasn’t since! I attempted to venture out another year after we had our children to get a few toys for my little people. Well, I quickly learned “parents and cheap toys/gadgets” do not go well together. I have never seen parents curse out other parents or other store employees, like I did that Black Friday morning. Since then, I have joined my husband and staying in on Black Friday. Now, I love the fact that I can get everything I planned and budgeted for when the clock strikes 12 midnight in the comfort of my own home. Black Friday sales are THE BEST and if you have done your research and determined the best sales, it will pay off in your checkout cart. Find the sales!

Use Cash/Debit Card (no credit)

Since you have budgeted for the holidays, it will make it less tempting to spend more if you use cash/debit card. I only suggest using credit cards if you are racking up reward points AND after charging the card, you immediately transfer the money from checking to you card; other than that, use cash!

Remember to create memories and make it fun!

Most kids do not remember what they received for Christmas when they become adults. What they will remember, however, is how they felt during the holiday season. I can only name a handful of gifts I received growing up…only a handful! But what I do remember is how much fun we had eating together, opening up gifts together, playing board games together and laughing together. I remember the love we shared during Christmas (and Thanksgiving).

So, let’s not get caught up in buying the perfect gift and spending a ton of money during the holidays only to regret it when the new year rolls around. Let’s just enjoy and be grateful we are able to share the holidays with the ones we love the most!