If you are like most of us, you probably ignore the fact that the holidays are sneaking up on us all year long, and then scramble to find the money for the gifts we need to buy. Why do we do this? The holidays come the same time every year, it isn’t a surprise! But nobody wants to be thinking of Christmas presents in February, after the holidays have just ended. I do know a few people who buy gifts all year long. Does this mean that they don’t overspend after Black Friday…nope! It just means that they have a lot more gifts to give later on. Without a set budget, it is really easy for us to spend way more than we can afford to show those we love how much we care. (LOOK FOR THE FREE HOLIDAY GIFT BUDGET PRINTABLE AT THE END)
TIPS IF YOU WANT TO PLAN AHEAD
If you are reading this early enough in the year, or you are wanting to get ready for next year, these tips will help you start planning on a successful gift giving season:
- Track Expenses: Just like with any budget, you need to start with knowing how much you typically spend in total for holiday gifts and expenses. Keep your receipts and add up how much you have spent total. You can also keep a list of who you buy presents for and write down how much you spent on each. Having this information will make sure you are accurate with planning how much you will spend the next time.
- Create a Santa list: I like to create a list of ever person I am giving gifts to, and then write down a dollar amount I would like to spend on each person. For kids on my list, I try to keep it under $30, for example, while different people in my life will be getting different amounts. I do this because I love getting gifts for people and I will go shopping and find something one day for someone, then find something else the next time for the same person, and so on. Then I have a ton of stuff for one person and no money left for the rest of my list. Some people are easy to buy for…a list helps me keep things in perspective.
- Create an idea list: Throughout the year, I find things that I think someone would love, or I overhear someone saying they would like something specific. I keep a gift idea list in my bullet journal throughout the year to help me remember what everyone needs, likes, and wants. This list can be used for birthdays, holidays, and “thinking of you” days. People love being surprised that you remembered something specific that they need or want.
- Shop throughout the year: If you see something that you know someone is still going to need and love at holiday time earlier in the year, grab it! Make sure, though, that you are keeping track of it somewhere (lists are my favorite things, if you can’t tell). I have a daughter who loves and collects make up palates so I can easily buy those for her as they are released or as I find them and save them for her. My other daughters aren’t as easy to buy for, so if I don’t keep track, I end up spending way more over time on one child than the others. Keeping track of what I am buying and what I am spending makes my life easier. Also, if your goal is to keep spending down, once you buy that early gift, cross that person off your Santa list! They are done, so it is one less person to buy for later on.
- Start a holiday sinking fund: Once you know how much you typically spend on your holiday shopping, divide that by the number of months you want to save for it and start saving that amount in a separate envelope or account. You can also start a Christmas Club account at your bank, which is the same principle, but gains interest as it grows. Sinking funds are a great way of saving a little now to be able to spend a lot later. (Read more about SINKING FUNDS here).
TIPS FOR WHEN YOU HAVE NOT PLANNED AHEAD
You say you wish you had thought of this, but it’s the end of November now and you are worried you have no money for gift giving? I hear you! This is me, on a regular basis. Mostly because I hate shopping, but also because the idea of planning ahead is new to me. All of these tips I have shared so far are a combination of what I do and what I would like to do. Here are some tips for what to do when you haven’t planned ahead:
- Start early: As early as you can, just pick up one or two things when you are out doing your normal shopping. Every time we go to Walmart, we check out the toy section to get ideas and look for sales. I have a lot of kids in my life to buy for throughout the year, so when I see a good deal or clearance on something, I snatch it up right away. I have had a mechanical dinosaur in my closet for months, because the boy I nanny for is going to love it. It was the last one there and had been marked down from $40 to $25! I knew he would still be into dinosaurs by Christmas, so I got it right then. We also find something for our granddaughter every time we go, usually saving it for Christmas.
- Stick to your lists: Just like I mentioned before, having a list of every person you need to buy for and how much you want to spend will be your guide. Maybe you want to spend $50 on your boss, but you can’t narrow down what to get. Start looking for small gifts…chocolates, assorted teas, books they like…and make a small gift bag for them. You can usually make it nice for way under budget and it will still be a thoughtful gift.
- Get Creative: If you have a very small budget, maybe you can make something or give a service as a gift. Making a cookie tray, homemade candies, or painting a small gift if you have the talents, or giving away a night of babysitting, a day of cleaning someone’s house, or another service you can provide, can really show someone how much you care without spending a fortune. If you are looking for more GIFT IDEAS ON A TIGHT BUDGET, check this out.
Holiday gift giving shouldn’t be stressful and unpleasant. While it has turned into an obligation, try to remember the true spirit behind gift giving…love. If you are truly struggling, people in your life will understand. If you have small children and are struggling, look for help from Salvation Army and other programs that will give your children the Christmas they deserve. No one in your life should make you feel like you should go into debt to get them a present. Get motivated to save a little starting next year and give yourself time to get a little bit of a head start.
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