Staying Within Your Christmas Budget

Paying for Christmas
(Part 2: Staying within the budget you have)

Hi there! Last week, I told you all about our Christmas sinking fund envelope and our goals for our budget for this year's Christmas. If you missed that, you can read about it here.

This week I'm going to share how I did and chat about staying within the budget you have. We set a target budget of $1000 for everything for Christmas. If your budget is bigger or smaller than that, that's completely up to you - the point is you either reach your target budget or you don't, and then you need to make some decisions. 

When we were ready to start making purchases for Christmas, we had $520 in our Christmas envelope. How did that happen? Well...some weeks I didn't put in. Some weeks, I used the cash in there for other things, like food. Am I disappointed that I didn't reach my goal? Yes. Does that change the fact that unless I want to go into debt over Christmas, $520 is what we have to work with this year? No. And I don't want to add debt. So $520 it is. 

I did have an unexpected $70 check and my husband a $65 one, so we decided to add these two to the budget as well. Hooray! Total budget: $655.

The Plan:
And here is where I've gone wrong EVERY year before. For whatever reason, I have never sat down and divvied up the spending with specific numbers for specific people. News flash! That is EXACTLY what a budget is. And if I had never done it before...ahem...I had never truly set a Christmas budget. I have only started with a pool of money, started spending it and hoped that there was enough to hold out until the end. I suspect that I am not the only one. Am I right?

So here is this year's actual budget. I started with a list of the people we buy for: the kids, the hubs, my nephew, my parents, teachers, bus drivers, my aunts. We have a small family and I'm usually able to get at least a little something for just about everyone. Next to each person is a dollar amount of what we plan to spend. There's a "Things to Get" category, like a tree and cards. And there is a "Food" category for our family Christmas Eve dinner and what we need to bring to my parent's for Christmas Day.

If I add up all the projected spending on all our people and the tree, that's $473, leaving $182 for the rest. I haven't yet decided if I'm buying or making presents for my aunts, and I haven't priced out the food for our events. But I have some wiggle room. And wiggle room feels good. You get to shimmy. 

The Lists:
Since our kids get the biggest chunk of our budget, I'll dive a little deeper there. Our kids gave us their lists in true-to-their-personality fashion. Our son texted me part of his list, and texted my husband the other part. All items requested were computer or video game related with small exception. Easy to purchase. Some things were a little pricey though. This was my half of the list. 

Our daughter wrote hers out and gave us a Key to follow. Some things we were "allowed" to purchase on our own. Other things she wanted input on, or to select a specific item.

The Spending:
To keep us on track and make sure we didn't exceed our budget, we priced out the things that the kids asked for before we purchased anything, and worked out what we could get for the amount we had set. I kept a sticky note for each kid, with running amounts of the items, and a balance, showing what we had left to spend on each one. I keep these in my Christmas sinking fund envelope, along with my receipts. That way, when I'm out and about with my envelope, if I see something on their list, I have the cash to purchase it right then, and I know how much left I have to spend. Biggest key to this step and hardest one to stick to: when you're done, you're done. No more purchasing.

I followed this method for each person on our list. What did they ask for? What are the prices of those things? Which ones can we buy and still stay at or under our budget? My dad, for example, always gives us a list of books and movies he wants. I priced out all his items and found I was able to get 2 books from his list for a total of $36.19. With a budget of $50 for dad, I can either look and see if there is another item for $13.81 that I can snag for him or roll that $13.81 over into another category. Either way I have choices and neither choice leaves me in debt. 

It takes a lot of time and planning on the front end for this to work, I'm not going to lie. But the end result is a planned Christmas spending season where you tell your money to go and you don't go over budget. That is our goal and this is our plan.

Next Week:
I'll be chatting about how to cut corners if you need to, what to do about online purchasing, because we've done our fair share and how to opt out of the things that you just can't swing. Hope you join me! 



Anonymous said…
I’m so excited for next week!!

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