Destress the Holidays With a Holiday Budget

The holidays are a beautiful time of year that bring friends and family together. You don’t want those experiences to be overshadowed by stress. You also don’t want to get an overwhelming credit card bill in January to get your year off on a stressful note. That’s why I’m sharing my 5 tips for developing and sticking with a holiday budget.

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Holiday Gift Giving and Stress

Now that the holiday shopping season is here, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the “deals,” excitement, and checking things off your list. That’s certainly understandable, but one major cause of stress this time of year is overspending on gifts. Bankrate cites a recent report by The Harris Poll that shows “as much as 65 percent of Americans feel ‘anxious and stressed’ as we approach the holiday season due to inflation.”

Feeling this way for sustained periods isn’t healthy for us mentally or physically at any time of the year, but we definitely don’t want to do that to ourselves during the holidays. While there are many things that we can’t control this time of year, not putting ourselves in a bad position moneywise isn’t one of them.

5 Tips for Sticking With a Holiday Budget

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind as you shop this year:

Develop a holiday budget

Creating a holiday budget is best done in a spreadsheet. You’ll want to start by making a list of all of the people that you have to buy gifts for. Then make a list of all of the extra but predictable expenses that you need to plan on. These can include such things as decorating, extra food, and baking, special holiday events, etc. Next, determine the amount of money that seems reasonable and comfortable to spend on each item. Once you have your total, review it to make sure that it seems realistic and doable. If it’s not, go through and determine areas where the amounts can and should be less.

Be real, in a gentle way, with your kids

If your kids are asking for things that are beyond your budget, ask them to choose their top 1-3 items as long as those things fit within your limits. If they don’t, then ask them to narrow down more or honestly tell them that those things cost too much. You can tell them that your family is focusing on making sure that each person gets 1-2 really special things this year, and you’re limiting it at that. We have done a version of this with our boys and everyone was fine.

Even Santa has limits

In our house, even Santa had limits because we wanted to make sure that all the children were able to get something really special. It also sets the tone for helping them to understand what the holidays are really about for your family and that it’s not necessarily just a time to throw the doors wide open for them to get anything and everything they want. That’s an unrealistic expectation for any point in life, even for kids.

If you have young kids, consider buying gently used or secondhand items

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and as long as the items are in good condition, your children are not going to even notice. This practice helps to keep you from going over budget and helps to extend the life of perfectly useful items that still have a lot of joy to give.

Focus on Intentional Gift Giving

Intentional gifts are creative and meaningful and help you to give joy while creating it for yourself as well. While you still have to keep your budget in mind, intentional gifts make sure that you’re actually putting some thought into the gift-giving process and are getting the most joyful bang for your buck.

Looking Ahead to Next Year’s Holiday Budget

If you really want to prevent money from factoring into your holiday stress, planning your holiday budget early is key. I’m talking about starting in January and setting aside money each month in savings. You simply determine what a reasonable total amount is that you think you’ll need to spend for the holidays the following year and divide that by 12. That gives you the amount that you will need to deposit into your holiday savings each month.

Having this money building up throughout the year not only prevents you from having to come up with a large amount in November and December but also gives you the flexibility to take advantage of deals as they happen at other times. In addition, it allows you to buy throughout the year if you see the perfect gift for someone on your list.

This process should ideally be done as you develop your larger annual budget. That way you know whether the amount that you’re planning on for your holiday budget is realistic or not. It also helps in making decisions about other larger purchases throughout the year since you know that you need to allow for the fixed holiday amount each month. If you do have to use your holiday money one month to pay for an unexpected, necessary expense, be sure to make it up the next month or divide the missed amount throughout the remaining months. The main thing is to try to not have to come up with the entire lump sum at the end of the year.

The Bottom Line on a Holiday Budget

Remember, extended times of stress are unhealthy. Holiday gift-giving shouldn’t add to that. The best gift that you can give others this holiday season is a healthy, happy you.

Great Gift Reminder!

Don’t forget that if you’re looking for an inexpensive, but thoughtful gift for the women over 40 in your life, be sure to consider a 6-month (or longer) membership to the Empowered Health and Wellness for Women Over 40 Facebook Group. If you have any questions about how it works, feel free to reach out to [email protected].

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