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  • Jenn Steliga

2019 Holiday Budgeting Tips

The National Retail Foundation found that in 2019 the average American is projected to spend $1,048 on things like candy, gifts and décor. The study divides their data into the categories of gifts, non-gift items and other purchases with anticipated spending being highest for gifts ($659), followed by non-gift items ($227 – think food and décor) then other purchases ($162).

Hopefully you’ve already started planning for the holidays in your budget. But if you haven’t, that’s ok … there’s still some time to get to work! Here are 10 tips for a successful holiday season that won’t bust your budget. 

Save money this Christmas by being intentional with your gift giving

  1. Make a list of everyone you want to buy gifts for: assign each gift a price (after doing some research) and total up the amount you’ll need. Don’t forget neighbors or co-workers if that’s important to you (and only if it fits in your overall budget). Put this amount under a specific line item in your budget, such as “Christmas Gifts”. Set aside money in November to help out in December.

  2. Meal prep: think about the holiday parties you might be attending, or get-togethers you may be hosting or co-hosting. What’s your budget going to be? Save money by meal planning now and looking for simple recipes that don’t cost a lot of money, and taking advantage of any sales. Meats, spices, extracts and sugar can be expensive, among other items we often use for holiday cooking and baking. The simpler your recipes, the less expensive they’re likely to be. 

  3. Make use of the decorations you already have and avoid buying new ones. This is tough for me – I LOVE Christmas décor! But if I’m trying to save money, this is the first thing to go from my budget. And if I really, really think I can afford it, I budget for it. If you do decide to purchase some new items, try your local thrift shop! Or swap with family members; sometimes one person is tired of their holiday wreath, but would be willing to give it to you in exchange for something you might have but are tired of!

  4. Consider cutting out your travel and staying home instead. This can be hard for our families or friends to understand, but if you’re serious about getting out of debt and maintaining a debt-free lifestyle so that later you can have a rock-solid financial foundation then skipping travel this year might need to be an option. 

  5. Pick 3 types of cookies to bake instead of 10 (or maybe 20 if you’re me – this is my favorite time of year to bake). Just your favorite 3! You may enjoy the cookies more since there are less of them, and you’ll save a little buying all those extra ingredients (and you won’t gain that extra holiday weight).

  6. Real Christmas trees can be pricey. Do you have an artificial tree you could dust off and bring back to life? You’d be amazed at how good you can make that tree look with the lights and décor you already have … just get creative and embrace it! And if you can’t live without that fresh pine scent, get a candle instead … much cheaper than a tree and you’ll still get that lovely fragrance in your home.

  7. If you’re just now starting to prepare for the holidays, understand that you’ll need to be willing to sacrifice in some other areas of your budget since it’s just a few months away. What are you willing to give up to cash flow the holidays? Eating out? New clothes? Do you have any subscriptions that are easily paused for a few months? Here’s an exercise to try: if Christmas was tomorrow and you had to go shopping tonight (with your cash, of course), what areas of your budget would you reduce or eliminate altogether in order for you to have that cash to buy those presents? Be reasonable – you still have to pay your utility bill and put food on the table! But I bet there’s a category out there that could easily be reduced to fund that present you mindfully choose for your spouse.

  8. For those of you with young kids, attending the office or friends’ holiday parties can get to be expensive if you need to find a sitter. If you find yourself in this situation, say yes to just one or two invitations and limit the time you’re there. Or, maybe you can work something out with other friends who also have kids and exchange babysitting services so you can enjoy one more celebration! Count this as your Christmas gift to them (if you typically exchange gifts) and you just saved even more money!

  9. Take a minimalist approach. Do your kids or grandkids really need 10 gifts this year? What would it look like if you carefully selected just one or two gifts for your loved ones instead of trying to shower them with all the fun cool stuff you see? It may not feel as good to you to skip all those goodies as your shop online or walk through the store, at least not at first. But I promise you you’ll feel the difference later as you watch them open the one or two presents you very carefully selected for them. And I guarantee they’ll feel different too – with too many presents crowding the living room floor on Christmas morning, they can get lost in the shuffle and the experience can become overwhelming. I’m not saying that families who buy lots of presents for each other are bad; so if that’s your thing, please continue it! I just want you to be able to pay for your festivities in cash. Don’t start the New Year off by going into debt!

  10. Put a line item on your January 2020 budget now to start saving for the 2020 holiday season! Go through these steps again to come up with a reasonable 2020 budget, divide by 12 and start setting aside money now for next year. You’ll be glad you did.

If you could benefit from some coaching this holiday season, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call here to learn more. My promise to everyone who calls is an open and honest conversation about your fit for coaching. There is no judgment here; I’ve made my share of mistakes with money - we all have at some point. But we pick ourselves up, learn from our mistakes, and move on to a better future.

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