5 minute read : www.daveramsey.com
The holiday season is upon us. We travel. We eat. We shop for Christmas gifts. And we eat some more.
The best way to enjoy this time of year without losing control of your money is by budgeting early for holiday costs. Here are some budget items you need to watch out for now so you don’t throw off your Christmas budget later.
Planning for Your Holiday Budget
1. Christmas meals
Are you hosting Christmas dinner for your family or bringing your favorite side dish to a potluck? Plan your Christmas recipes ahead of time so you can wow friends and family with your cooking (and budgeting) abilities. If you are hosting out-of-town family for more than a day, you’ll want to budget even more for extra meals and restaurant visits.
2. Pet boarding and holiday travel
Just because you got an invitation to Aunt Betsy’s fancy Christmas party two states over doesn’t mean Fido did. If your pet isn’t making the trip with you, make sure to budget for boarding fees.
Plane tickets and hotel rooms aren’t the only travel costs to account for this time of year. Snacks at the airport, Uber or cab rides, parking garages, tips, and extra gas money are some of the smaller expenses that can slip under your radar.
3. Christmas shopping and decorations
Set aside some money so you can take advantage of the big sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts on things like TVs, clothes and technology.
While you’re probably excited to string up lights as soon as you’re done eating on Thanksgiving, you’ll still want to make a budget before you buy that peppermint-scented candle or new Christmas wreath.
4. Higher utility costs
Lower temperatures mean higher heating bills. Keep your budget from getting burned by upping the amount you plan to pay for your utilities. You’ll be prepared for the higher bills, plus you’ll get a Christmas treat if it ends up costing less than what you planned! When you make a plan for your money each month, you’ll have more peace of mind. Talk about a holly, jolly Christmas!
Unwrapping Low-Cost Christmas Cheer
Now that you’ve got your budget covered, let’s dive into all the holiday fun coming your way! Too many people think you have to spend big bucks to have memorable Christmas fun. They splurge on gifts, traveling, food, and festivities, and then shrug it off by saying, "Oh well, it’s Christmas."
That creates Santa-sized trouble if your money is tight. It’s a better idea to go for less expensive holiday activities that help you keep your cash in your pocket. Is that even possible? You bet! Check out our six ways to have a wonderful Christmastime at little cost:
1. Decorate cookies together.
Buy some sugar cookie mix at the store along with sweet toppings like icing, candy canes and sprinkles. Spend an afternoon baking and decorating the cookies while listening to your favorite Christmas songs. It’s a great way to get yourself into the Yuletide spirit.
2. Have a Christmas movie marathon.
From It’s a Wonderful Life to Elf, there are tons of classic films you can stream online or check out from the library. Pull out the blankets, pair those yummy cookies with some hot chocolate, and gather the family for a merry movie marathon.
3. Make your own crazy Christmas carols.
This is just like Mad Libs but with a holiday twist. Black out certain words in your favorite Christmas songs. Ask your family members to suggest nouns, verbs, numbers and so on. Then sing the new lyrics and get your caroling on.
4. Have a sock snowball fight.
Gather every pair of (hopefully clean) socks you can find and ball them up until they’re the size of snowballs. Then move some furniture, pile the socks in the center of the room, and let the battle begin! Oh, and keep your head down!
5. Go on a scavenger hunt.
Make a list of holiday items to find—maybe a stuffed reindeer, a seven-foot tree or a roll of wrapping paper with snowmen on it. Spend the day searching and determine a prize for locating everything!
6. Look at Christmas lights.
Here’s a timeless family favorite—basking in the glow of beautiful Christmas lights. Make some hot chocolate, toss it in to-go cups, create a Christmas playlist, and hit the road to take in the holiday lights around your neighborhood.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the Christmas season, even with a limited budget. A merry Christmas doesn’t depend on how much money you spend. It’s about the people you’re sharing time with and the memories you’re creating along the way. Anyone can do it—no elves required.
Getting the Christmas you want this year starts with having a budget, so what are you waiting for? Use our free budget app, EveryDollar, and build your budget in 10 minutes!