Friday, November 26, 2010

The Fourth Day of Christmas

Day 4: Tips/Tricks to a Budget Friendly holiday season

Everyone hates that dreaded "B" word, right? Especially during the holidays when all we want to do is show our loved ones how important they are to us by spending spending spending! But in order to still pay rent once the new year rolls around, a budget is a GOOD idea. 

At our house? We use a Google Spreadsheet to organize our spending. We list everyone we have to buy for in the first column. The second column gets gift ideas. The third column gets populated with the actual gifts we purchase. The fourth column is the budgeted amount for that person. The fifth column is what we've actually spent, and the sixth column is a calculation: budget column - actual column to display what we have left to spend. 

Everyone's name is bold at the start of the shopping season. Once we've finished shopping for someone, we unbold their name. This gives us an at-a-glace view of WHO we have left to buy for and HOW MUCH we have left to spend. It's super helpful! 

The Hubs and I share access to this document, so of course we don't include our gifts or spending for each other on here, but we do have our budget for each other listed. The reason for that? We total the budget, actual, and left to spend columns at the bottom of the spreadsheet.

We also have the sheet broken into sub-categories: Family, non-family, and total. 

How do we decide on our budget? We do this on a person-by-person basis. Parents and siblings generally get a higher budget, while aunts/uncles/cousins/friends get a lower amount. And if we don't spend everything? GREAT! It's not about spending every last penny, it's about finding thoughtful items that our loved ones will appreciate, without spending the next year paying back a credit card company! 

Also: we include Christmas shopping in our MONTHLY budget. Each month a certain amount of money gets the title "Christmas shopping" attached to it. That way, when December rolls around, we've got the cash we need to avoid putting anything on a credit card. We're cash Christmas shoppers. And we're happier for it!

As for staying within our budget? It's all about creative gifts (sometimes homemade), online sales, and of course, Black Friday shopping (Happy Black Friday!!!).

Do you have a budgeting process for Christmas shopping? What's your technique?
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