Christmas does not have to break the bank. Working together to create a Christmas budget, married couples can make the most of Christmas savings and build a plan for a realistic Christmas shopping list.
How to Create a Christmas Budget
Creating a Christmas budget is the most important part of saving money during the holidays. In order to create the budget, married couples should decide the total amount they are willing to spend on Christmas shopping. This amount will depend on how much they think is reasonable to spend on the holiday and what fits into their personal budgeting plan.
The amount of money will also depend on whether the couple has been saving in advance to prepare for Christmas spending. Saving a certain amount in the months prior to the holiday can free up cash for shopping without hurting the family budget. Couples who can put away an extra $50 or $100 for a few months will have more money for Christmas spending.
Couples who want a debt-free holiday can determine how much money they can afford to spend based on how much they have saved during the year or how much money they can spend from their paychecks to pay for Christmas gifts. Even if the couple will be using credit cards for Christmas purchases, they should decide how much they will pay in cash, how much will go on the credit cards and how much money they want to spend on Christmas in total to reduce credit card debt. Husbands and wives can set a goal for what is a reasonable amount to spend on Christmas based on their financial picture and the number of gifts they would like to buy. For example, a couple may decide to spend a total of $500 for everyone on their list.
Decide How to Spend Christmas Money
The next step is to make a list of everyone who will receive a gift. Include each other and everyone who receives a gift so there is a complete picture of who will be on the Christmas list. Be sure to add family members, the mailman, teachers, neighbors and a couple small gifts in case someone has been left off the list.
Each person will then be assigned a dollar amount for their gift. If a specific gift is wanted, determine the actual cost of the item before assigning a value to keep the Christmas budget realistic. It might not sound romantic, but setting a limit on how much to spend on gifts for each other can keep overspending in check and help a couple meet their long-term financial goals.
Personal Budgeting for Couples
It’s a good idea for husbands and wives to do this task together so they can balance each other out and agree on a fair amount. For example, she may want to buy $20 gifts for the children’s teachers and he may feel like a $10 gift certificate would be sufficient. He may want to buy a flat screen television for his parents, but she may think a different high-tech gift would fit the budget better.
Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover [Thomas Nelson, 2003], says couples are often made up of “bean counters” and “free spirits.” The bean counter is particular about how money is spent and the free spirit is content to live in the moment. Taking the time to bounce gift ideas and amounts off each other will help to ground the free spirit and satisfy the bean counter in each couple.
Trimming the Christmas Gift List
Once every gift has a dollar value it is time to add up the Christmas shopping list. How close is the amount the couple wants to spend on each person to the amount that is budgeted for the entire holiday? If the Christmas shopping list is higher than the amount budgeted for the holiday it is time to cut the Christmas gift list.
In most cases there are going to be people on the list who can be omitted without hurt feelings. Teachers may appreciate a heartfelt note more than another coffee cup of candy. The mailman may not really be expecting a gift when a sincere “thank you” would suffice. Consider who can be given cards with thoughtful notes, who can receive homemade food gifts, who could be given cheap Christmas gifts instead of lavish presents and who would really prefer to spend time with the couple. While it can be hard to accept the idea that not everyone who gives a gift to the couple will receive a gift, everyone has someone in their life who will continue to give gifts at Christmas when they have been asked to cut back or to not give at all.
Christmas shopping doesn’t have to hurt the budget. Tips to make Christmas shopping easier include planning ahead to save money prior to Christmas, deciding how much to spend on the holiday and determining how much to spend on each person. Trimming the gift list may be necessary to bring the holiday in under budget.