Did you know Christmas used to be celebrated for 12 days?
Imagine that holiday bill. Twelve long days of presents, feasting, stocking stuffers, figgy pudding, indigestion and tinsel.
While Christmas is technically just one day now, there are still multiple celebrations and costs. And it really adds up. If you wait until December to prep your budget, you might feel like coal is your only option.
Skip the coal. We’ve got six steps you can take to budget for an all-cash Christmas. That way, after all’s said and done on December 25, you’ll be sitting in a pile of wrapping paper and memories, not debt.
1. List out the people on your nice list this year.
First, you need to think of everyone to buy for this year. Family, friends, coworkers, teachers, fifth cousins twice removed. Yeah, it can get a little crazy.
This year, trim the tree and your shopping list. Have conversations with family about drawing names instead of buying for everyone. Plan to say no when random work parties ask you to bring a classy $25 gift for Dirty Santa.
Keep your bank account on track this year by keeping your list small(ish). Use our Christmas Present Planner to help.
2. Brainstorm gift ideas and costs.
Once you know who you’re getting gifts for, write out a couple of things you can buy or make for each person.
Of course, we aren’t suggesting those macaroni picture frames your parents pretended to love getting from you when you were little. But if you have true skills to knit, paint, bake or build something people will actually love, then plan to get crafty this Christmas.
Supplies still cost cash though, so plan out how much you’ll need to spend on those or on the book, mug, family photo session, or whatever else you’re gifting each person. Then write down the ideas and estimated costs.
Side note: Even if you don’t exchange gifts for the holidays, consider using your Christmas savings to give to others. You can buy toys for foster children or a turkey for a family in need. Or find ways to spread Christmas cheer without spending a dime—like volunteering at a food bank or donating your gently used items.
3. Add up all the planned amounts.
After you’ve made your list and checked it twice, it’s time to total up all the gift costs. This will be your Christmas savings goal. (Don’t forget to budget for extra shipping if you’re not planning on traveling this Christmas.)
And remember, the best way to keep debt from wrecking your halls this year is to stick to this goal. When you’ve got a plan, you’re less likely to overspend come December.
4. Set up a sinking fund.
- First, find the Savings category in your budget.
- Click Add Item and label your fund—something like Christmas Gifts 🎄. Then click Done.
- Click on the Christmas savings line item you just created and select Make This a Fund. This lets you set your savings goal and keep track of how much you’ve saved so far. You can also add a due date and savings reminders to your fund.
Oh, you don’t have EveryDollar yet? Gift yourself early this year by signing up for our very favorite budgeting tool. (Oh, and it’s free. Even better.)
5. Start saving each month.
With your fund all set up, it’s time to do some more math. Divide your total savings goal by the number of months left until the most wonderful day of the year. This is how much you’ll need to save each month.
Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!
Where do you get that Christmas cash? Well, the quickest ways are to cut back your spending in other areas, pick up a side hustle or extra hours at work, or sell something. There are plenty of ideas for making extra money. And starting early spreads out the work!
Remember, the extra effort now means when Christmas bells are ringing, you can truly enjoy them knowing you didn’t underplan or overspend.
6. Remember: Even Santa lives on a budget.
If you do the math and the total you have to save seem impossible, tweak some things! The only way Santa’s able to give gifts to every child in the world is by being budget-minded. We should follow suit.
Don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anyone with how much you spend on the holidays. Seriously. That’s not what Christmas is supposed to be about. Just ask the end-of-movie version of George Bailey, Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch.
Christmas is about valuing each other, not stuff.
This year, make your gift giving about celebrating the joy of the person, the season and togetherness. And remember, Elvis warned us that debt makes for a blue Christmas. (That's what the song was about, right?)