Holiday Budgeting

Christmas list, writing, pencil, decorations, presents, candy cane

Have You Made Your List and Checked It Twice?

The holidays are a time filled with celebrating and friends and family. It is also the time of year when people are making the most purchases. Many of the items purchased are gifts for loved ones, or impulse buys because a deal seems too good to pass up. Below are some ways to help you spread cheer this holiday season while staying within your budget.

Make a List

Children love making Christmas lists that tell Santa what they hope to receive. You can take the same approach and make a list of everyone you need gifts for. Your list will likely include family members, close friends, and coworkers, but don’t forget all those you give smaller gifts to, such as teachers, neighbors, and service providers, like your mailman or hairdresser.

Set Spending Limits

Once you have listed each person, determine the amount you would like to spend for each person. Add up the amounts you have attributed to each person and see what your total spending would be. If that number is not feasible consider reevaluating who you need to buy gifts for and what you can spend per person. If your budget is already stretched thin before the holidays, you have a large family, or simply too many people you exchange gifts with, consider doing a Secret Santa. That way you can save by eliminating several people from your list and can buy one nice gift, rather than many gifts.

You can also discuss setting a limit with those you exchange presents with. You can feel pressured to give a more expensive gift than you can really afford because you feel obligated to based on what you and your family members have received in the past. Many with large families set limits, such as x dollars per child, y dollars per niece and nephew, and z dollars per grandchild. This helps everyone know what to expect come gift time and helps eliminate discussions of how cheap Aunt Gertrude was this year.

Get Creative with Your Gifts

Chances are, most adults will likely have everything they need and if they don’t, they will buy it themselves. Unless they have specifically asked for something, avoid adding another unused wallet to your uncle’s growing collection by gifting an experience instead. There are tons of options, like skydiving, driving a race car on a closed course, theatre tickets, or paying for a few months of their video streaming service. If you buy gifts for several members of a household, consider giving them a family gift instead, such as a membership to their local zoo or waterpark.

If you want to give gifts to many people in the $10-$20 range, think about what your skills are and see if you can make their present. Cookies and other baked goods are the most common homemade gifts, but there are lots of other options. You could give each person a cutting board or spoon that you have wood-burned their initials into, decorated a picture frame you made from pallets or supplied them with a dozen of your homemade tamales to enjoy whenever they wish. If you are not crafty or simply don’t have the time, buy items in bulk and then split them for the individual gifts, which can help you give quality gifts within your budget. No matter what you decide to give, be sure to compare prices and make sure you’re getting a good deal. Taking a minute to grab your phone and check prices online for an item can save you from overspending at a store.

The Season of Giving

While making your holiday list, keep in mind that this is the season of giving. If you have much to be thankful for this year, consider helping those less fortunate. Cooler temperatures mean that this time of year can be much more uncomfortable and dangerous for the homeless or needy. Donate new or used items, especially coats, socks, hats, and blankets, to local charities and non-profits. Make an annual tradition of volunteering at the food bank, or make a habit out of checking on elderly neighbors that don’t have relatives living nearby. Another way to help others while staying within your budget is to ask loved ones if you can buy gifts for the less fortunate instead. This way everyone will feel as if they are helping a worthy cause and it will help someone who really needs things. For example, if your house is already overrun with toys, ask your children if they would like to donate some of the presents they would have received to a needy child. Many stores have Christmas trees with those children’s wish lists, so you can make a family decision on which age and gender to select, and let everyone be involved in picking items for them.

Making a list and checking it twice, just like Santa does, will help you from overspending this season. Keep track of your spending and be sure to incorporate that amount into your budget for next year. Setting aside a portion for holiday gifts each month is generally easier than having to accommodate such a large expense all at once. If you need help with your holiday finances, we are always here for you. Visit any Eastex branch and we will be happy to help this holiday season be your merriest one yet.

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