How to prepare a Christmas budget you can stick to

November 1, 2015

Christmas is among the most wonderful times of the year: spending time with family, enjoying a sumptuous holiday feast and lots of presents. Unfortunately, it means expenses that can quickly drain your bank account. Here are some hints to help you prepare a Christmas budget you can stick to.

How to prepare a Christmas budget you can stick to

Consider inexpensive gifts

Gifts for the holidays need not be expensive or, for that matter, even purchased from a shop. Sometimes the best presents are the ones made with love.

  • Handmade gifts have sentimental appeal and a special charm.
  • Shop at thrift stores for vintage (but classic) items that never go out of style, like a crystal vase or antique costume jewellery.
  • Keep an eye open for online and offline discounts. Many more Canadians are shopping and saving big by making their purchases on the Web.
  • Download a smartphone app or two that will keep you updated on shopping deals.

Set a realistic budget

How much do you really think you can save between today and Christmas? Don't be tempted to put it all on your credit card. You'll regret the decision later – guaranteed.

  • Fix a reasonable amount to set aside for each paycheque, then multiply that by the number of pay periods between now and a week or so before Christmas. This figure will be your Christmas budget.
  • If you started doing this earlier in the year, let's say mid-summer, then stick to the amount you've saved expressly for this purpose.

Create a Christmas list

Think of who you would like to buy gifts for this year, starting with those closest to you and working your way outward.

  • After you have your list, work your way from the top down, deciding who on your list gets a store-bought gift, who gets a handmade gift and who gets a handwritten card.
  • Make your way through the list of people to whom you have allocated a "store-bought" gift and assign a portion of your budget to each.

Don't overrun your budget

This is, without doubt, the hardest part. There are no tricks to sticking to your budget, you just have to be strict with yourself. It may require a bit more effort on your part, but you'll be just as satisfied with the results – as will your gift recipient.

  • Remember that the more you allocate to one person, the less there will be for the rest on your list. So choose wisely.

Get creative early

Most people have limited hours during the day to spend on making gifts, so start well in advance. If you think you're not the creative type, realize that everyone has skills that they can give to someone as a gift.

  • If you're clumsy at crafts, you could give home-baked cookies, vouchers for babysitting services or a home-cooked meal.
  • For crafty souls, there are countless online resources for ideas on handmade gifts that will be appreciated and aren't too difficult to make.

Start shopping early

You can prepare a Christmas budget at any time of the year, summer included! That way if you follow through and you begin shopping early, you'll resist the temptation of making pricey purchases for "the last one you could find." It will also eliminate the pressure of purchasing a gift you don't want, but feel compelled to buy.

  • Even if you've started shopping for gifts later in the year, such as November, you can still beat the biggest crowds that occur as we draw closer to December 25th. So don't wait!
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