A Holiday Budget in Five Simple Steps

Estimated Monthly Savings: $200

The holiday season is a celebratory time filled with family, friends and loved ones. Yet often it is easy to let budget-related stress outweigh holiday spirit. A happy shopping trip begins with a budget that you can keep track of and use to prevent unnecessary purchases. The holiday season is a time of giving, but not at the expense of your sanity. So grab some paper, and a hot chocolate, and follow these five steps to budget your holiday list now.

1. Make Your List (And Check it Twice)

The first step to an effective holiday budget is to know who you’re buying for. Sit down and write a comprehensive holiday gift recipient list. In addition to adding the usual people to your list, decide whether gifts might be appropriate for your boss, certain co-workers, or even your go-to babysitter. Once your list is complete and refined, settle down and get ready for some budgeting fun! Remember, try not to let this step add stress to your holiday season by keeping in mind that it’s simply impossible to get a gift for everyone that you care about, and that cards and well-wishes might serve as perfect gift substitutes for many of the people on your list.

2. Prioritize Your List

Now that you have a set list of names, separate those names into prioritized groups. For example, presents for your own children and close family members should rank higher on your list than gifts for work friends and extended family. To make the process even easier each name on your list should fit into one category below:

High Priority: Immediate Family and Friends

These are friends and family that you will absolutely buy a gift for, no matter what. People in this category include children, parents, siblings, and life-long friends.

Medium Priority: Professional and Work Friends

This list should include bosses, co-workers, and others that you would typically be expected to buy gifts for during the holiday season.

Low Priority: Friends from Social Clubs and Extended Family

This final list is for friends, family, and coworkers that you are not very close to and who would not expect a gift. This might also include family members who you don’t see over the holiday season.

3. Plug in the Numbers

Now that you’ve broken down your list, you need to take some time to set a rough amount that you intend to spend for each person on your list. Make sure that you low-priority recipients don’t take up more of your budget than high-priority recipients. If you know exactly what you would like to buy for a specific person, go ahead and make that the budgeted amount for that individual. If you can’t decide on a number for a particular person, look at the budgeted amount for others in that category, a similar amount would be appropriate for anyone in the same category.

4. Refine and Finish

The last and final steps before you can start to shop are to make sure that you haven’t left anyone out, that your total budget is not higher than intended, and that your budgeted amount per-person is on target. If you find yourself way over-budget, go back to step one and step three to see if you can cut anyone from the list, or set a lower budget for certain people on your list. Keep in mind that not all gifts are expensive and that gestures and trinkets will be more than acceptable for many of the people on your list.

5. Turn your List into Gifts

Now that you’ve made your list, prioritized the recipients, created an individual budget for each person, and made any last-minute changes, its time to get out there and enjoy some stress-free shopping. Just grab your coat, hat, and your personalized budgeted holiday list and nothing will keep you from having a happy, carefree day of shopping for those on your list.