This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.
Have an amazing Christmas and holiday season this year without going broke or into debt! Start planning ahead with these 6 things you can do right now to be financially prepared for Christmas early.
6 Ways to Financially Prepare for Christmas
I know it’s not even officially Fall yet, but in order to have a successful holiday season, you should start planning now. That may seem like a dream come true for some (Christmas planning in September?! Yes, please!) and a nightmare on Earth for others (Noooo! Not yet!). But whichever camp you’re in, come December, you’ll be glad you started thinking about it now.
For us, once summer is over we enter something called “birthday season” (AKA Fall, to most people). So, we buy all of our back to school supplies in August. Then, our kids’ birthdays are in September, October, and November (and bonus! Hubby also has his birthday in October.) Plus, don’t forget about Halloween costumes. And then guess what? It’s already the holidays.
So it’s really, really important for our family to have our financial ducks in a row, which is why I'm very excited to team up with SunTrust to share some money saving (and spending!) tips for the holidays. We have to plan ahead, or we’ll end up broke and in debt by the end of it all. That’s why we like to start thinking about the holidays now, but even if your fall isn’t as crazy as ours, you’ll still benefit by getting ahead and starting now to be financially ready for Christmas.
6 Things to Do Now to Be Financially Ready for Christmas
1. Start saving now! No matter what your ultimate budget or spending limit is, start putting money away now. For us, that means I just set aside a designated amount aside each month for birthdays and the holidays. For you, it could mean the same. Or it could mean cutting back on unnecessary miscellaneous expenses, like making coffee at home instead of a shop in the morning or eating out less. It could also mean trying to save money in other areas of your budget, such as your grocery bill, then stashing the money you save.
2. Plan for travel. If you travel to family for Thanksgiving or Christmas every year, then make sure you have a budget for that. And also start looking for flight and hotel deals now because the closer it gets to the date, the more expensive it can be (I believe they think of it as a desperation fee…). Check out travel packages, and book in advance. AND add your travel expenses to your budget.
3. Make a menu plan, and start stocking up. If you’re hosting a holiday party, plan the menu for it now. Even if you’re not doing the hosting, plan what you’re bringing to any family events. For example: cookies you may bake every year, or treats you need to make or buy for work or your kids’ school.
4. Figure out how much you can afford. Look at your finances for the next several months and figure out how much money you’ll actually be able to put aside for the holidays. So whatever you can put away as a lump sum every month or just whatever you think you can save from groceries, or miscellaneous expenses. Count that as the final amount that you can afford for the holidays this year.
5. Budget the money you can spend. I’ll let you have a sneak peek at mine at the bottom of this post. For your budget, plan the amount of money that you think you’ll be spending for the holidays. This includes travel expenses, gifts, food, cards, and any other extra expense that you’ll have during the holiday season. I use this SunTrust Budget Worksheet to plan my holiday budget. I really love it because you can edit it to personalize it for your own life, including editing the gift portion to include family and friend names. And I also love that they thought of so many budget areas that I sometimes forget, like gift wrap (which I love and probably buy a little too much AND usually forget to budget for!). Get started and grab your own budget worksheet here: SunTrust Budget Worksheet
To budget for the holidays, follow these simple steps:
- Download the SunTrust Budget Worksheet here.
- Figure out who you need to buy for. Parents, grandparents, kids, cousins, nieces and nephews… Don’t forget people like neighbors, teachers, or even your mail carrier.
- Set a budget limit for each person.
- Add in additional expenses, like extra food, baking supplies, travel expenses, etc.
6. Fill in the gaps. So here’s kind of the hard part. Let’s say you look at your budget and see that you’re going to need $1,500 for all your expenses. Then you look at the amount you can actually afford to spend from step 4, and it’s only $1,000. Eeek. You need to fill in that $500 gap! There’s really two ways to go about it. You can either look at your budget, and cut a little from a few areas to make up the difference, or you can try to make some extra side money to increase the amount you can afford. Or you can do a little of both by decreasing your budget and making a little extra money to kind of meet in the middle.
Some ways you can decrease your budget are:
- Making homemade gifts
- Shopping sales from now until the holidays to find the absolute best deal. (Planning this far in advance allows you to do just that!)
Some ways you can increase the amount you can afford are:
- Selling items. Have a bunch of stuff you don’t use or don’t need? Sell it! Take a picture, and put it up on Facebook or another sale site.
- Sell services. If you have the extra time to do some side jobs like babysitting or yardwork, offer your time in exchange for some extra cash.
- Sell goods. If you have a talent, like baking, sewing, or crocheting, make some items to sell, and save the extra money for the holidays!
What does your budget look like?
So, as promised, I’m going to give you a little sneak peek into our finances. Since I’m self-employed, my income changes from month to month, so I usually don’t fill in the income portion until I know for sure. That’s blank for now. You can fill out all of your monthly income and normal monthly expenses in the monthly budget tab.
Next I filled out the Gifting Guide tab.
In this section, I listed everyone I needed to give gifts for (including myself, so that my hubby has money in the budget to go shopping for a gift if they want to!). For us those people include our parents, our sisters and their spouses, each other, our grandparents (we still have five living grandparents), an aunt, uncle, and cousin, our nieces and nephews (four tween girls and two toddler boys), our own kids, plus the mailman, my kids’ four teachers, a gift exchange my husband does at the fire station each year, and the stockings which I budget for separately. Phew.
You can see what that all comes out to below. Eek. Good thing I started planning now… Then I just take that number and put it at the top where it says “Enter your total spending limit here:.”
Also. I LOVE Christmas. Like love it. So, I do have a tendency to go overboard. I have decided to cut back a bit on our budget for everyone, but especially for our kids. (They have too much stuff anyway.) I have it set at $300 for each kid right now, but I think that’s probably still too much. And I’m considering spending even less.
Tell me how much you spend on each of your kids in the comments, and help me out!
Then I went back in the Holiday Budget tab, and added in the other holiday expenses, besides gift giving We don’t have travel expenses as all our family lives within an hour of us. So, I just added in a little extra money for food and baking supplies, a small decoration and gift wrapping budget (… because I overbought last year).
I also put a small budget for “entertainment” because we like to ride the train up to Chicago to see the Macy’s windows and take a little walk, hopefully while it’s snowing. We also like to go ice skating at Christmas-time.
We do not do cards. Partially because I don’t like to, and also because I always forget until it’s almost too late. And then we give a larger donation to our church at the end of every year, so I included that in the “charitable contributions” area.
So, there you have it. That’s what our budget looks like this year!
Time to get started on yours! Do you have any extra tips for getting ready for the holidays? Or better yet, how do you SAVE money during the holidays? Tell me in the comments!
Remember to download your SunTrust Budget Worksheet to get started with your own planning!
This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.