Christmas is a wonderful time of year filled with friends and family and lots of love. When you’re making that gift list and checking it twice, you want to make sure you don’t leave anyone off.
But the list can be a little daunting when you start adding price tags to it.
So even though Christmas is a few months away, it’s never too early to start saving up.
Christmas Budget Ideas
The first thing you want to do when you’re determining your Christmas budget is to calculate what you can afford. Millennial Boss is a fan Dave Ramsey, who has some great money-saving advice, especially for the holiday season.
According to Ramsey, a family that makes $50,000 can spend about $800 on a Christmas budget. If you make half of that, cut the Christmas budget in half. If you make twice as much as that, then you can double the $800 Christmas budget for a total of $1,600.
Obviously, you don’t have to spend as much as your budget allows, but you certainly shouldn’t spend more than your budget.
Christmas Budget Template
To figure out how close your budget is to what you can afford, a Christmas budget is your best bet. There’s a pretty good one here on Etsy, or you can make one for yourself with Microsoft Word or Excel.
The things you want to include on your budget are the names of the people you plan to buy gifts for, the amount of money you plan to spend on each person and the amount of money you actually spend on each person.
By adhering to the amount budgeted for each person, you should be able to stay on top of your holiday spending.
Christmas Weekly Savings Plan
Of course, in order to adhere to a budget, you need to have money to spend. There are plenty of ways to save for the holiday season, you just have to find the one that’s right for you.
A weekly savings plan is one where you save a little bit each week and by the time you hit your target date, you have your full amount saved.
Calculating how much you need to save each week is pretty simple. Take the amount of money that you need and divide it by the number of weeks you have to reach that goal. The end number is how much you need to save per week to reach that goal.
You can make a savings plan on a simple piece of lined paper, or if you need a little extra motivation, get some cute savings jar stickers here on Etsy.
Visual Christmas Weekly Savings Plan
If you’re more of a visual person, then you might want to consider something like a picture of a jar or thermometer to help you track your money-saving progress. The idea is you color in part of the item for every step you take toward your end goal. When the whole thing is colored, you’ve achieved your savings goal!
The Benefit of a Christmas Weekly Savings Plan
The biggest benefit of a weekly savings plan is it’s a way to hold you accountable each week. You’re taking a bunch of little steps toward your end goal.
Also, when you break it down into smaller amounts that you have to save each week, the goal seems more achievable. $50 a week for 10 weeks sounds much easier to do than saving $500.
Christmas Money Saving Chart
A money-saving chart is a chart that lays out a savings plan for you. On a weekly savings chart, the amount of money saved stays the same every week, whereas, on a money savings chart, the amount of money saved varies from week-to-week or day-to-day.
Take for instance the money-saving chart from He and She Eat Clean. It starts out with saving $25 the first week and then drops to $20 in the second week before jumping up to $30 in the third week.
The Benefit of a Christmas Money Saving Chart
Having a money-saving chart is sometimes very helpful for people. Smart Asset says, “[Some people see saving as] a game and competition, offering a clear objective and concrete steps that make it easier to stick to your savings goals.”
Holiday Savings Plan
Whatever you do, it’s a good idea to have a plan in mind as you start saving.
Create a Separate Account
Many people find that a separate bank account is helpful. A separate account helps keep away the temptation of spending your Christmas money.
If you don’t want to create a separate account, then setting your money aside, literally, in the form of a money-saving jar, piggy bank, or something similar.
The whole point is keeping the money you’re saving separate from the money you plan to spend.
Take Money Out as Soon as You Get It
If you get a separate bank account, the next step is to ask your employer to change your direct deposit so that a portion of your paycheck is automatically deposited in your new account every pay period.
If you take your paycheck to the bank, then take your savings amount out in cash every pay period and immediately put it in your jar or piggy bank.
In both instances, the train of thought is that if the money never hits your bank account, then you don’t miss it when you save it.
Create Automatic Transfers
If you’re the kind of person that just forgets to save the money, then an automatic transfer can become your best friend. If you set up an automatic transfer to happen every month, every pay period or every week from your bank account to your savings account, then you don’t have to remind yourself to save it will happen automatically.
Get a Side Hustle
Another, though admittedly harder, way to save for Christmas is to find a way to make some extra money. A side hustle is a great way to do this.
There are plenty of side hustles a person can do including DoorDash delivery and Lyft driver. Millennial Boss has a few side hustles of her own, including selling printables on Etsy. I wrote a whole article on how to do that, if you want to read it, just click here.
Holiday Savings Strategies
You can also use some shopping strategies to save yourself money while you’re doing your Christmas shopping.
Shopping Apps and Websites
When you shop through an app like iBotta or websites like MyPoints and Ebates you spend the same amount of money, but you’re also earning points. Those points can be redeemed for cash back, so you’re saving in the end.
Both MyPoints and iBotta offer points for shopping on sites like Walmart, Target, and Amazon, so you’re likely to earn no matter who you’re buying for.
You can also shop with discount codes from a site like RetailMeNot. During the holiday season, a lot of these codes include free shipping, which is a money saver in itself.
Subscribe to a Store’s Email List
If you know you’re probably going to do most of your shopping at one store, it might be worth your while to join the store’s mailing list. Stores like giving extra incentives to loyal customers and often send out special deals like free shipping or an extra percentage off.
Macy’s does this a lot for people who have a Macy’s card. Once a quarter, the company will send special coupons for extra savings. Those savings coupons increase during the holiday season.
Use a Credit Card that Gives Cash Back or Points
Just like shopping through a website or app, you won’t save money at the purchase but you will later on. Many credit cards will allow you to apply the cashback or points that you earn through spending to your credit card balance. That means even though you didn’t get that 5% discount initially, you can get it on the back end.
Use Discounted Gift Cards
If you know you’re shopping at a specific store like Target, you can buy discount gift cards on sites like GiftCardGranny or Raise and then use that gift card for your holiday shopping.
Most people shop at stores like Target or Walmart, so the discounts aren’t great. But 1% to 5% off is better than nothing.
Alternatives to Buying Gifts
Sometimes buying gifts for everyone can just be too much and that’s where alternatives can come into play.
In my husband’s family, we always draw names for the adults in the immediate family. We set a budget limit and then just buy one gift within that budget limit. Everyone enjoys sitting down together on Christmas Day and opening their one gift and I don’t think anyone feels like they’re missing out on anything by having fewer gifts.
Play Games Instead
In my mom’s family, we play games instead of a gift exchange. We made the change about ten years ago. One person is in charge of making the games and two or three people split the cost of the prizes.
One of the games we play is Left, Right, Center, a quick dice game that can take as many players as you want. In our game, everyone starts with three dollars and whoever has a dollar left in the end wins the entire pot.
If you need Left, Right, Center, you can find it here on Amazon.
Give the Gift of Food
For some of the people on your list, such as co-workers or friends, think about the gift of food. Bake batches of cookies and distribute them or make peanut brittle. There are plenty of great food gifts that you can make at home for the fraction of the cost of a gift.
And when you’re packing those gifts, just hit the Dollar Store for food tins. During the holiday season, the Dollar Store always has plenty of Christmas themed food storage containers.