How To Budget For Christmas (Before December!)

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Christmas always sneaks up! Especially when you’re buying more gifts every single day, purchasing new decorations, mailing out an abundance of cards, and attending a party every weekend.

Don’t let the holidays sneak up on your budget. You can budget for the Christmas essentials before December hits…in fact, you can save a little bit of money every single month so you have a positive balance in your account when the holiday season arrives! Here’s how:

1 – Make a spreadsheet of gift recipients and budget

The first step toward budgeting for Christmas is to track how many people you give gifts to each year. It’s best to track this information in a spreadsheet so it’s easy to organize. Here is a sample spreadsheet:

NameRelationBudgetGift IdeasNotes
Janasister$35Plaid scarf, coffee mug, phone caseExchanging gifts during Thanksgiving this year
Mrs. BeckerDaughter’s teacher$25Starbucks or Target gift cardGive at their Christmas party on the 15th
HusbandHusband$50New wallet, sports team hat/shirt
Gift wrap supplies wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, tape, ribbons and bows$75Go to Dollar Store! Have things wrapped for free when bought.

Guess how much you may need to spend on gift wrap, wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, tape, ribbons and bows. Add this to the bottom row.

Once you have that list complete, tally up the total amount in the Budget column.

Tip: You give gifts to more people than just your family! Don’t forget your neighbors, teachers, friends, Christmas charities, pastor/Sunday school teacher, mailman, White elephant gifts, hostess gifts, etc.

2 – Make a spreadsheet of Christmas card recipients and budget

Christmas gifts aren’t the only thing that comes out of your budget. Christmas cards can be expensive as well. 

Design another spreadsheet to list the people you send cards too. Here’s another sample:

NameAddressMailDeliver
Jana123 Sister Street

Chicago, IL 12345

yes
Mrs. BeckerSunshine Elementary SchoolYes (at Christmas party on the 15th)
Pastor PeterFellowship Church Yes (at Christmas Eve service)
Matt123 Brother Ave

Boston, MA 12345

yes

Now that you have a total number of cards, look at the cost to purchase cards (either traditional ones, or custom ones designed on a website), envelopes, paper (if you print yearly letters), and postage stamps.

Here’s another example to help you calculate the cost of your Christmas cards:

  • Total # of Christmas cards needed: 100
  • Cost to customize a Christmas card online: $2.00 per card, includes envelope
  • # of cards to mail: 75
  • # of cards to hand deliver: 25
  • Cost of 75 stamps: $0.55 per stamp x 75 cards = $41.25
  • Total cost of Christmas cards and postage: $241.25

3 – Make a list of decorations

Gifts and cards are the obvious costs of Christmas. But many families redecorate their home for the holidays, inside and out! Do you purchase a special collectible each year, or add items to your home each holiday season? Include that in your budget too!

Decor ItemCostNotes
Christmas tree (fresh)$125Buy fresh for family room, have a fake one in the attic for the play room
Lights (indoor and outdoor)$15Have enough strands, but one always seems to die when putting them on the tree!
Ornaments$50Buy each child a new ornament every year
Collectibles$35Add new element to manger scene

Once again, tally up the budget column after you compile your list.

4 – Make a list of parties

Christmas parties happen the entire month of December! Kids school parties, neighborhood get-togethers, gift exchange with your best friends, etc. 

Don’t let those events sneak up on you. Plan ahead in your budget! Make one final spreadsheet to help you track this.

PartyBudgetNotes
Daughter’s class party$25For her to buy a gift for her 2 best friends every year
Neighborhood party$10White elephant gift exchange, $5/adult
Best friends$50Dinner and $10 Dirty Santa with girlfriends
Kids parties$30$10/child for Christmas parties

Like the other spreadsheets, calculate your budget column. 

5 – Calculate the cost of Christmas

You’re done making spreadsheets! That was a lot of work, but next year will be simple since you’ll just be replacing costs and notes.

Now it’s the interesting part – to calculate the cost of Christmas!

Add up the budget column from all of your spreadsheets:

Christmas gifts + Christmas cards + Christmas decorations + Christmas parties = Total cost of Christmas

Using the example spreadsheets above, here’s the calculation:

185 (gifts) + 241.25 (cards) + 225 (decor) + 115 (parties) = $766.25 total cost of Christmas

6 – Budget for Christmas every month

Are you shocked by the total cost of Christmas? It’s probably higher than you expect (because of the unexpected nature of Christmas)! Review your spreadsheets to make sure you have all of the essentials listed. Maybe you can remove some of the unessential items to save money in your budget.

But you can afford to pay for all of those things…if you budget throughout the entire year!

Divide you grand total by 12, and add that amount into your monthly savings budget. Based on our sample above, that equals only $63.85/month. That’s do-able!

Once December rolls around, you will have a positive balance in that savings account to purchase all of the gifts and cards and party essentials you need for the Christmas season!

Want more Christmas ideas? Read more:

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