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November 28, 2023

The holiday season is upon us, a time for fun and celebration. Before diving too deep into planning, take a step back to prepare your finances. Sure, this step probably doesn’t excite you, but your wallet will thank you when the dust settles and the new year rolls in.
We have some useful tips and tricks to help get your finances in order so that you can ensure a merry and bright celebration for you and your loved ones.

Create a holiday budget

Grab a notebook or create a spreadsheet and list all your possible holiday expenses. Be specific and include the amount you expect to spend for each category. This list could include:

  • Gifts: Write down the people you want to buy presents for and assign a budget for each person. If the list is lengthy, consider organizing a gift exchange with friends and family to reduce how much you'll spend.
  • Decorations: Take an inventory of your holiday decor. Doing so will help you figure out if you need to buy new items or if you can repurpose what you have. Consider creating decorations as a cheaper alternative to store-bought items. Not only will you save money, but you'll also add a personal touch to the festivities.
  • Food and entertainment: Factor in the cost of holiday meals if you host relatives. Also, list costs you'll incur if you plan to attend holiday parties and events.
  • Travel accommodations: If you plan to travel, include those costs. Be flexible with travel dates, and consider cheaper accommodations to save more money.

Once you know how much you’ll need, review your spending plan to determine how much you can spend on the holidays. There’s still time to save up if you’re a little short. Set aside a small amount each week or find side hustles to boost your income and save up quickly. Otherwise, you’ll need to cut monthly expenses or trim your holiday budget to avoid going into debt.

Track your spending

As you make purchases, update your budget to keep track of your progress. Record all your holiday-related expenses in a notebook or use a budgeting app so you have an easy way to monitor your spending closely.
This task makes identifying areas where you might be overspending easier, so you'll know exactly how to adjust your budget. Keeping tabs on your spending also helps you prepare for any unplanned costs.

Get creative

Whether your budget is tight or you want to maximize your holiday budget, it’s worth thinking outside the box. Go for more affordable options like homemade gifts or potluck-style holiday gatherings. These alternatives can help you stay within your budget and avoid added stress. Moreover, they provide a meaningful way to express love and appreciation to your loved ones.
Sometimes, the most memorable gifts aren't physical items but experiences or quality time. Plan a fun activity or outing to create lasting memories with friends and family. That way, you can cherish those precious moments without stretching your budget thin.
Also, take advantage of sales, discounts, and holiday deals. Many websites offer price comparison tools and display the best offers available. Cashback apps and rewards programs are another way to maximize your holiday budget. You can save money with ease and earn cash back on your purchases.

Plan for unexpected expenses

It’s also worth building an emergency fund by setting aside a portion of your budget for expenses that may come up during the holiday season. Whether it's a last-minute gift you forgot, unexpected medical costs, or car repairs, having a financial safety net in place can
help to relieve added stress when life happens.

The bottom line

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration but can also be a time of financial stress. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Having a plan is a surefire way to help prepare your finances for the holidays.
You can enjoy the festivities without straining your finances or adding debt. Most importantly, as you welcome the new year, you’ll be able to appreciate peace of mind from wise budgeting.