5 Great Budgeting Tips for the Holidays

As I was driving by the mall the other day I felt the familiar urge to go shopping. I love shopping during the holidays, especially before it gets too busy and crazy. I love the smells and sounds of the mall during Christmastime: perfumed and perfectly air-conditioned clothing stores with the best new merchandise for the season, big red “SALE” signs in the windows. I realized that shopping at the mall has become a nostalgic holiday tradition. I look forward to it. I crave it. I need it.

Whoa, it’s only the beginning of November! I have to be careful how much time I spend shopping, because shopping means spending, and overspending means that guilty feeling.

I decided to come up with some other nostalgic memory to think about whenever I had the urge to go to the mall. What I came up with was sitting by the fireplace with a cup of hot tea and a good book: sipping English Breakfast with half and half, reading Steinbeck, and wearing comfy clothes with the mukluks that Andy bought for me from Hume Lake. Now that sounds more like it. That’s what I really want to do today.


Please forgive the foot selfie. But the mukluks are so cute right? Andy has such good taste!

On to budgeting–if you are like me and you like to shop, these tips will be helpful for you.

Christmastime can be so expensive!
It took a while for me to figure out how on earth we were going to get through the Christmas holidays without getting off track financially. Five years ago, after a lot of unnecessary fighting about money, we hired a financial advisor to help us set financial goals. One thing we learned was that we needed to save up for Christmas all year instead of putting Christmas expenses on the credit card. Brilliant! You probably already knew to do that, but it had never occurred to me before the advising because Christmas didn’t seem so expensive until I got married and had kids.


Now, we set aside $50 from each paycheck in a Christmas savings account. We have found that $1,000-$1,200 is a reasonable budget for our family for Christmas. This includes family photos, cards, postage, a tree, parties, decorations, pictures with Santa, and of course, gifts—and other unexpected things that seem to come up.

5 Great Budgeting Tips for the Holidays that We Learned from Financial Advising

1.Set a realistic Christmas budget
How much did you spend last year? That might be a realistic number for you.

2. Save monthly according to the dollar amount you need by Nov. 1
For example, if you start saving in January and you want to save up $1,000 for the holidays, set aside $100 per month so you can start shopping with cash on November 1st.

3. Pay with cash only.
You mean no credit cards?

4. Leave credit cards at home from November through December
It will hurt a little bit. However, by December 26 it will all be worth it. Don’t forget to add in those online purchases too, since they have to go on the card.

5. Avoid shopping for yourself
This is the hardest one! Technically, it doesn’t have to come out of the Christmas budget, right? But I really believe that this is the real problem with overspending at Christmastime. I buy so much stuff because it’s on sale, or I can use it next Christmas too, or it’s the newest, latest thing.

Here is a free budget sheet I found from Simple Mom.

Finally, it really helps me to have all my shopping done by December 1st. This way I can avoid annoyances that cause me to spend more money, such as:

  • The pressure of last minute shopping
  • Picked-over gift choices
  • The feeling that what I got for someone wasn’t nice enough and I need to add one more thing. This happens to me when I spend too much time shopping.
  • The shopping bug that makes me buy things for myself everywhere I go during the holidays. I’m not saying you do that. It’s probably just me.

Have you learned any other techniques that help you save money over the holidays? Please share!

Oh, and don’t forget to comment with your thoughts: would you honestly rather go shopping or read a good book by the fireplace? They both sound pretty good to me right now!



Chelsea Rotunno is the author of Goodnight to My Thoughts of You, a novel about life as a Christian teen searching for true love.

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