I love being with friends and family for Christmas, but all the prep can easily overwhelm me. But of all the tasks to be completed over the holidays nothing wears me out more than the shopping. Here’s how to minimize holiday stress while also avoiding a Christmas budget busting situation.

How to avoid a Christmas budget-buster

  • The average American spends between $752 and $929 on Christmas gifts
  • In post-holiday surveys, 20% of people report that they spent more than they had planned for the previous year
  • Between gifts and other events, people add almost $1,000 in credit card debt during the holiday season

You see, in years past (basically every year) I pretty much bought whatever my family put on their Christmas lists. I did this because, while we always had a budget for gifts, I knew that if I went over I could make up for it somewhere else. Meaning, I would cross my fingers and hope we under-spent in other categories in our budget and “borrow” from there.

Really, if I am being honest, I was just being lazy. I didn’t want to have to do the work required of me to stay within our budget. But this year I refuse to be lazy. This year I will not overspend.

This is how I intend to do it.

I will stick to the budget

I will stick to the budget – no matter what.

Yeah, I know – the “B” word. Call it a spending-plan if that makes you feel better. Regardless, people who track and plan their spending tend to have way fewer financial stresses.

Hopefully you considered this annual expense early and have been planning for it each month. It’s a lot easier to tuck away $80/month than come up with $960 in a short period of time!

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy giving gifts. And it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of buying things for the people you love. Without a plan, that spending can really get out of control though.

It isn’t just one or two big purchases that blow my budget. Instead it’s more of a slow leak. Picking up a few small things here; then a few there. Grab stocking stuffers that catch my eye while I’m out-and-about. Next thing I know I’ve spent more than planned.

But Not this year!

It really isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about the gifts, but the time spent together with family. This year we are actually lowering our Christmas budget but expect we’ll enjoy it just as much – if not more! Over spending – especially if you do it by using credit cards – will invariably only cause stress.

Have your budget and stick with it!

Three Budgeting Tips to Help Get You Started

Use Cash

Honestly, I don’t love using cash. It’s inconvenient. Swiping the credit or debit card is much easier! It’s so easy though that we often disconnect from the process. We don’t think about what we spent (or if we could afford it) until after the purchase is made.

The same things I don’t like about using cash is why it’s so great for keeping within your spending plan.

Using cash is a guaranteed way to keep from overspending. It’s the fool-proof way to avoid busting that Christmas budget.

I’m going to create an envelope for each person I’m shopping for and place the budgeted amount of money for that person in that envelope. And once the cash is gone, they are done!

I suggest making an envelope for everyone you shop for – including teacher gifts or even that annoying white elephant gift for the office Christmas party.

Using cash really is the best way to stay on budget.

Successful budgeting is all about this one thing

Shop around

Don’t assume the big box department stores have the best deals.

Start watching for deals now – local ads and newspaper flyers are a great way to see who is selling what gadget of the year and for how much. Check out all the flyers that show up for Black Friday – some of the deals really are amazing (if you can handle the crowds) or sit back and do your shopping on Cyber Monday.

My point is do your homework to get the best prices so that you can really maximize your Christmas budget.

You may need to be patient.

Last year my husband really wanted the Apple Watch, but instead of jumping the gun and buying it as soon as it was released we waited knowing that some stores will run specials closer to Christmas. And sure enough, we were able to save $100 on it by just being patient and shopping around.

3 Tips to Living Within Your Means

So that is my plan

I’m going to adhere to our family gift budget, use cash and shop around to find the best deals.

As in anything we want to accomplish in life if you don’t have a goal you will miss it every time! My goal is to NOT overspend this Christmas season and with my plan in place I feel confident I can reach that goal.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how you’re handling your Christmas budget? We’d love to hear from you!