Trying to simultaneously save money while spending money on gifts during the holidays is something we all struggle with at Christmas time… if you’re not prepared!
Money can be a touchy subject. And the term “Christmas on a Budget” can make a girl cringe.
But the truth is, most of us end up spending way more money during the holidays than we actually planned for. And wake up with buyer’s remorse and a credit hangover on December 26th!
I’ve got some tips to help you spend your money in a way that feels good, with no buyer’s remorse this year!
Let’s talk about the gifts for your kids. Do you remember what gifts you gave them last year? Do they remember what gifts you gave them last year?
And, is the gift still being used and bringing joy today?
Some of you may say yes to this (and that’s awesome), but most will say no. Most often, the gifts we buy our children for Christmas bring temporary holiday excitement that ends up on the floor of their room or at the bottom of the toy bin.
Some Great Gift Ideas:
Start Your Christmas on a Budget the Right Way
To help avoid that, I’ll walk you through a short exercise.
Answer this question about your children:
What feelings are you trying to give your child by providing them a gift? If the answer doesn’t come to mind quickly, try writing it out. When your child is opening presents, what are you hoping to see in their cute little face?
What feeling are you trying to give yourself, by providing them a gift? Again, if the answer doesn’t come to mind quickly, try writing it out. What will drive that warm, fuzzy appreciation you may be looking for?
Once you know the answer to what feeling you’re trying to create, then you can really pay attention to the gifts you buy.
You can be conscious of your intent and decide if you want to spend the extra money or if a different gift is a better and longer lasting option.
The Secret to Buy Lasting and Meaningful Gifts
For years, I would try to get all kinds of small gifts for my son, so he would have a lot of packages to open on Christmas morning. Then I realized how much effort, brain power and wasted money I was putting into those gifts.
He was delighted the moment he opened them. Sadly though, within one month, the items were old news.
The feeling I was trying to give my son and myself was abundance. I wanted him to feel like he was rich with presents, and that I was able to provide that for him.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
But now, I have a very different approach. I do want my son to feel abundance, but instead of trying to teach him that with too many senseless gifts, I work on teaching him (and myself) this lesson throughout the year.
And for Christmas, my family decided to do something different and it surprisingly worked much better and was more enjoyable for everyone than the old way!
My husband and I buy him one nice gift (something he talks about for longer than five seconds after seeing the Target toy ad!), one smaller gift, and usually some pajamas!
Santa gets him one nice gift as well and leaves a few small items in his stocking. It’s simple, but it works for us. It’s important to decide what works for you and your family.
I recommend repeating the exercise above for your partner or anyone else you spend a fair amount of money on for gifts.
Creating Your Spending Plan
Moving on from individual gift buying, let’s take a look at the whole picture of holiday spending. The best way to keep yourself on track with your holiday spending (after you’ve set your gift buying intentions), is with a budget or let’s call it a “spending plan.”
Some people panic at the word budget, for many reasons. Some don’t like to feel limited, and for them, setting a budget feels constricting. Others may not have a ton of money to spend during the holidays but are going to spend it anyway, and having a budget brings money issues to the forefront of your mind.
Remember, you’re trying to avoid holiday buyer’s remorse. You know you’ll be spending some money, so doing a little planning will go a long way.
It doesn’t have to take hours and should be very simple. I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Excel and keep my finances in spreadsheets.
Not everyone is crazy like me, and you might find that a piece of paper will work just fine. There are also great paper planners for tracking and several budget apps for your smartphone. Use whatever works for you – ultimately, what you’d actually use.
Christmas on a Budget Tips for Success
This is a great time to have a conversation with your partner, so you can both be on the same page about holiday spending. When I talk about holiday finances in advance with my husband, it can help prevent financial arguments later.
And remember, a budget is just a guide, and it’s okay to have some flexibility with it.
Here are some optional budget categories, to help get you started:
- Charity or religious donations
- Holiday meals and beverages
- Decorations (Christmas tree, lights, candles etc.)
- Traditions (for example, my family goes to zoo lights every year)
- Holiday clothes/picture outfits
- Gifts (partner, kids, close relatives, work gift exchanges, kid gift exchanges, service provider gifts/tips, teachers, etc.)
- Christmas cards and postage
Once you put some dollar figures in place, you can tally up your total and decide where you want to increase or decrease your spending.
Having a total for all your holiday spending in one place can be a real shocker!
If you’ve never budgeted for the holidays before, you might be quite shocked at how much you typically spend. I manage our family finances, and I will never forget my husband’s reaction several years ago when he realized just how much we spend during the holidays.
Funny enough, we didn’t desire to change much about the budget, but it was a real eye-opener him. “It adds up so fast!” And he seriously says this every year now!
Once you have a budget, you can make notes as you spend. If you do this a few minutes at a time during the holidays, you are far less likely to lose track.
You may not remember to record every single purchase, and you may not spend exactly the budgeted amount, but there won’t be any big surprises when the credit card bill arrives in January!
Spending just a small amount of time in advance to review your holiday spending and to get clear with what your intentions are for gift buying – you can save yourself stress, money and time!
Nikki is a life coach for moms and is SUPER passionate about helping busy moms move from feeling overwhelmed, guilty, and stressed, to creating lives that are fulfilling and happy. You can find her on her amazing blog nikkiberkel.com. You can also grab her very helpful book The Busy Mom’s Holiday Guide here.