The holiday season is quickly approaching and it’s not too early (or late) to start managing the impact holiday spending can have on your budget. Read on for tips on managing your holiday spending in a way that will have you smiling in the New Year.

Make a list of expected holiday expenses. Sit down with a cup of tea and write a holiday expense list. Include holiday expenses such as airfare, gas/car maintenance, food, and holiday gifts. Determine what items are “needs” versus “wants” on your list.

Use your holiday expense list to create a budget. Once you have viewed all of your expected holiday expenses, set your budget for holiday spending while keeping into account  fitting your expected bills and saving goals.  It may be necessary to trim some of the “want” items out of your budget if through this process you realize that spending doesn’t allow for them.  Do yourself a favor and shop sans credit cards.  There’s nothing more depressing than opening up credit card bills in January for expenses you could have paid for in cash with a little planning.

Be okay with saying no.  If you can’t afford to travel across the country with your family for the holidays or if chipping in for that expensive gift for your parents, is out of your current budget, just be honest and say no.  Admitting that you can’t say yes to every expense keeps you from having post-holiday money woes.

Set (gift) expectations.  If money weren’t an option, we would buy gifts for all of our family members, friends, coworkers, babysitters and others we appreciate all year long.   But that simply isn’t possible for many of us with competing financial goals.  Think about doing Secret-Santa style gift exchanges with family members and friends so everyone will have a gift, but you won’t literally have to buy a gift for everyone in your personal network.

Go homemade for gifts and make them inexpensively.  There is an abundance of homemade gift projects at your fingertips with DIY blogs and popular social media networks like Pinterest.  Pick projects that you can actually see yourself completing and make your gifts.

No extra money in your budget? Create experiential coupons.  If you simply don’t have money to purchase gifts, give family members and friends experiential coupons instead.   Your budget could be tight this year for a number of reasons (unemployment or underemployment, paying down debt, etc.).  But family members, friends and acquaintances would appreciate homemade coupons for things such as 2 hours of babysitting, one home cooked meal, 2 hours of free graphic design services, 1 make-up lesson, free house cleaning, free massage, one free manicure, and countless other ideas.

Have potluck style holiday gatherings to cut down on food costs.  Food costs can bust a budget at any time of the year, not just the holidays.  So, to cut down on food spending, make all of your holiday gatherings potluck and have each attendee bring a dish (either homemade or store bought).


It’s possible to have a great holiday season while living within your means if you put plans in place now!  Tell us about your holiday plans and budgeting goals in the comments!