Overwhelmed by all that you have to buy and get this season? Here’s a simple Christmas Budgeting Template that can help you simplify and organize all that you need to give, buy and enjoy!
I used to think that budgeting for Christmas would turn me into the Grinch; In fact, I hated budgeting of all kinds because I used to think that it would make me too tight with my money and less generous with others.
But that was almost 10 years ago BEFORE I almost became bankrupt; Now, I see budgeting as a way to clarify, organize and simplify my holiday spending so that I can be generous, with or without my money.
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A Valuable Lesson On Budgeting
Here’s a little more background as to why I hated budgeting–especially for Christmas.
Both my husband and I grew up in immigrant families where Christmas wasn’t something our working class family cared to spend much money on, let alone splurge on.
This is probably why, when my husband and I started making more money, I wanted to give my children all that we didn’t get during Christmas time, and more.
Of course, all this financial privilege eventually landed us in financial straits and even close to bankruptcy in 2011.
Similar to the financial losses that many small business owners are facing now during our own recent crisis, we lost our business, our home, and even my 1.5 carat diamond engagement ring ( to pay off a creditor) at that time.
Despite losing everything we valued at that time, however, I did end up learning a valuable lesson from that experience which was to;
“Never trust myself with money unless I have a plan for how to spend my money. “
This is the reason why, now, I use a budget to plan for everything I spend my money on—from groceries, to clothes to my holiday spending and gift giving.
Ever since I’ve been doing this, my holidays have been so much brighter and less stressful and not to mention more peaceful than ever before.
A Christmas Budget Can Make You More Thoughtful, Joyful and Peaceful
By planning ahead and figuring out how much money I need to set aside, to give, and spend, has given me so much clarity, control and freedom over money I didn’t know existed when I wasn’t budgeting.
For one thing, by knowing in advance how much I needed for Christmas, I now save up for it year round instead of bemoaning the fact that I don’t have enough to get this or that for my kids.
Saving up this way also helps me to be a more thoughtful giver rather than just buying a whole bunch of stuff based on others’ recommendations or Amazon reviews.
By budgeting my Christmas spending in advance, I can also make decisions about what to buy much more quickly because it pares down the number of things I can and can’t afford.
Spending within my budget also leads me to have less buyer’s remorse and resentment that I’d have in the past when I’d buy something really expensive for my kids only to find that they didn’t appreciate it as much as I thought they would (should).
Lastly, and most importantly, a holiday budget allows me to pay cash for everything so I don’t need to worry about paying off a huge credit card balance afterwards.
This is a biggie because, whenever I’d charge my Christmas purchases in the past, something always happened unexpectedly to sabotage my plans to pay it off.
For instance, there was one Christmas where we had to replace a broken pipe on Christmas Eve, or replace our water heater right after Thanksgiving or had to have the car repaired after a freak accident.
Now, these unexpected surprises no longer worry me since I have an emergency fund and a Christmas fund.
This is the beauty of budgeting and planning and why I wanted to share this Christmas budget template with you in this post.
I hope that by using this budget you can also avoid the overspending, as well as the overwhelm that can often ruin what should be our happiest and merriest of seasons.
The Holiday Gift Budget
There are two templates here that you can use to create your holiday budget.
There’s a PDF version of this Christmas Gift Budget Template (PDF) you can download and print out if you prefer to write this out on paper.
Here’s the link to the on-line version, which you can edit and modify as needed and the formulas will calculate everything for you automatically.
Here’s a brief overview on how to use both of these templates below.
You can also watch this 7 minute video tutorial on how to use this budget.
Step #1: Budget How Much You’ll Spend on Gifts
First, fill out the budget amounts under both sections under the “Gifts” section on the left, and the “Holiday Decorating” section on the right. This will be the actual cash amount(s) you currently have to spend on gifts this month and NOT what you’d like to spend.
Then, go ahead and write or type the amounts you’d like to spend in each section–family, other, work and charitable giving– under where it says budget.
Your on-line version will look something like this as you type in the budget and the actual amounts you’ve spent.
Don’t get bogged down by which gifts you’re planning to get them but just stay focused on the AMOUNT you’ll spend for each person. The reason why is that these amounts may need to be modified as needed in the following steps.
Once you complete this section on the PDF version, calculate the subtotal for each section and then sum up the total.
The on-line version will automatically calculate all these subtotals/totals for you as you fill in the budget amounts.
Again, don’t worry at this point if your total at the bottom doesn’t match up with the total you put in at the top in Step #1.
Step #2: Estimate How Much You’ll Spend on Holiday Decorations
Although, many people don’t think to add these expenses to their holiday budget, your non-gift items can really add up if you don’t plan for them in advance.
This is usually what happened to me because I LOOOOVE to decorate for the holidays. What I found, though, was that if I didn’t budget this out in advance, it would eat into my holiday gift buying fund.
So even if you’re not that gung-ho like I am about decorating your home for the holidays, estimate how much you think you’ll spend on:
- a Christmas tree
- wrapping paper/ribbons/tags
- Christmas greeting cards
- postage (if you’re sending them via USPS; UPS, etc.)
Again, if you’re using the PDF version, calculate the subtotal for each section before moving on to the next step.
Step #3: Balancing Your Budget
Now, this is the step where the magic happens!
If you’ve never worked out a holiday gift budget before, this step will probably be an eye opener for you.
For those of you who find that your total budget(s) matches or is under the amount you have to spend, then great!!
Now, you can use this budget to organize your spending for Christmas.
On the other hand, if you find that your estimated spending budget doesn’t balance out with your anticipated cash flow this month, no worries. Here are a few tips to help you find the extra funds to balance your Christmas budget.
Tips On Trimming Your Budget
One thing you can do to match up your budget to your cash on hand is to simply spend less than you estimated. Here are some methods I’ve used to trim my Christmas shopping budget after my near bankruptcy.
- Buy in bulk: Take advantage of 2 for 1 deals at stores like Michaels, Joanne’s, Bath and Body Works and create gift bundles.
- Host a Virtual Secret Santa giveaway: Until recently, our extended family has always done a Secret Santa drawing. These days, there are multiple services that can help you organize this on-line like Elfster. This will cut down on the amount of gifts you need to get as well as the hassle of organizing this yourself.
- Make hand made gifts: For a few years after my financial crash, I gave hand made gifts like bulletin boards, key chains and even healthy food gift baskets for family and friends. Check out these adorable (and affordable) gift ideas for her and for him!
- Give Acts of Service: Offer services like babysitting, grocery shopping or baking or cooking meals for a busy friend or family member.
- Give sentimental gifts: Create a playlist on Spotify or use Canva to create and download a personalized verse or quote and frame it in a second hand frame.
- Cut back on your variable expenses: You can also cut back on your variable expenses by packing lunch rather than eat out or driving less to save on gas, skip a month at the gym, etc. etc. There are loads of ways to sacrifice a bit of yourselves for the sake of others. That’s what Christmas is all about after all!
- Go shopping with a list on hand: Never shop for holiday gifts unless you have your budget with you so you know exactly how much you can and can’t spend on a gift. I found that I always get tempted to go over otherwise.
Tips for Increasing Your Cash Flow This Month
Another way to make your holiday budget work out is to make some extra cash this month and next month if you’ve already bought stuff on credit. Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to make extra money when I had to choose between getting groceries or Christmas presents.
- Sell your used items: Unused kids scooters, online game consoles, and even TV monitors sell like hotcakes on Craigslist and gently used jackets and coats sell well at this time too on Poshmark. I’ve even sold some fine gold jewelry when I was in a bind at my local jewel marts. If you’re selling fine gems, like an engagement ring, be sure to do some research beforehand at sites like this one before you negotiate the price with jewelers.
- Cash your loose change: You’d be surprised at how much loose change you can round up around the house if you just took the time to look. By cashing in loose change I found lying around the house at my local Coinstar, I’ve been able to groceries and fill up gas. If you have a coin counter like this one, you can take your loose change to your local bank, as well.
- Find Virtual Temp Jobs: There’s a virtual job market out there where sky is the limit. Without leaving your house, and on your own time, you can bid for work on sites like Upwork for temp jobs in copy writing, editing, or even web troubleshooting. If you’re good at graphic design, you can offer your services on sites like 99designs, or Fiverr.
- Sell Your Baked Goods: If you like to bake, you could probably find some friends and neighbors who would be more than willing to pay you for specialty baked goods that they can’t get at their local bakeries. My oldest son (the pastry chef) has sold dairy, gluten and nut free or sugar free cakes and cupcakes on holidays or birthdays to friends and neighbors who had trouble finding a bakery that can do this for them.
- Offer House sitting or Dog boarding: Holiday seasons are times when many people are traveling-even now despite COVID. If you have an extra bedroom in your home, look into putting it up for rent on Airbnb or getting dog walking/boarding gig on sites like Rover or Wag.
Simplify Your Holidays With Your Christmas Budget
Even if you don’t quite make your Christmas budget work out this year, do the best you can and think of it as a starting point for what you’ll do next year.
Setting your sights on your financial future like this, will help you gain that much more clarity around what you’ll spend, manage and save all year round.
When you take charge of your money in this way, by budgeting out everything in advance, you’ll find how much simpler life gets when you learn to manage your money rather than when your money (or lack thereof) manages you.
This was how I paid off nearly $200,000 in credit card debt after our near brush with bankruptcy and why I can face 2021 with confidence despite all that’s going on with COVID.
Now, I see budgets not as a way to limit my freedom to spend, but as guard rails to safeguard my pathway to financial peace and freedom.
Limiting your spending with budgets this Christmas season will not only ward off all the excess drama that can come along during the holidays, but it can help us focus in on all the more important aspects of this holiday with more grace, joy and peace.