Budgeting For Holidays

One of the most stressful and difficult things you can budget for are holidays. Everyone knows that holidays can be expensive and for someone with a budget, especially if that someone has kids, it can be an even more chaotic time of year. Holidays are filled with high hopes and big expectations but even with a tight or limited budget there are still plenty of ways to make your holidays just as fun and memorable as if you had all the money in the world to spend.

The first and most important thing to remember is that holidays are not about presents or gifts they’re about celebrating special times and occasions with our friends and family. Often times a massive load of presents won’t compare to someone really feeling loved and cared for on a special day. So when working within your holiday budget try to keep these things in mind and to not let yourself be discouraged or caught up in the idea that if you can’t buy dozens and dozens of presents for someone that they wont enjoy their Christmas, birthday, mothers day etc.

The second thing to remember is that a lot of times the atmosphere can be just as important, if not more important than the presents that are being given and decorations are an area of holiday planing that are extremely easy to save in. First of all the best way to go about it is to shop at the big store. There are large craft stores and decoration outlets that specialize in holiday decor and can give you a big discount over smaller more local stores. When you shop at these stores you can get a variety of holiday items for less than you would be able to at other places and because they’re seasonal decorations they wont wear out as quickly as regular household items will so you can afford to be a little bit more thrifty in these ares.

Plus since many holiday decorations can become traditions (for example, my family always puts the same angel on our christmas tree every year) you can use your decorations again and again without them becoming old or tired. This is a great way to save money because once you’ve invested in your decorations you probably wont have to do so again for some time. Unless something breaks or you decide to update your collection you can continue using your decorations many times over and can even apply them to different holidays. You can also save wear and tear on your items by packing them carefully and gently away while they are not in use.

When it comes to decorations you can also have some great experiences creating your own decorations. If you’re willing to take a little time and get creative you can have a lot more fun and make your holidays a lot more meaningful if you make decorations with your spouse or family and often those decorations will mean a lot more and be much more appreciated than something bought at the store.

There are plenty of ways you can take this on - the sky really is the limit here. At thanksgiving my family loves to make “turkeys” by gluing feathers and little eyes to squash or pumpkins. We also get some fabric, some curled yarn or ribbon, and cotton balls, and sew it all together to make little pilgrims. We’ve also used little salt and pepper shakes to paint and decorate as pilgrims which are functional and cute. For christmas you can make your own gingerbread and cut out shapes - which you can then string with yarn and use as tree ornaments. We also popped some popcorn (the kind without butter) and strung it all together to make homemade garlands for our tree. During valentines day we used cookie cutters and construction paper to cut out dozens of hearts to hang from the ceiling. This made for an extremely festive year of holidays and there was very little cost involved.  

If you’d rather have some store-bought decorations (nothing wrong with that) there are still plenty of ways to save on those. A good plan is to always buy in the off season. Prices are much much lower when you buy Christmas decorations in July. That’s just the way it works. It takes a little advance planning for sure but if you take the time to hunt down a decorations store that stocks those products year round or that begin stocking them about six months in advance you can save a lot of money by buying your decorations in advance instead of waiting for the mad rush of the season when prices skyrocket.

This is also a great way to save on presents. By saving up and beginning to buy presents months in advance you have a greater length of time to spread your spending out over which makes it easier to stick within your budget and still have a great holiday. If you’re worried about your presents seeming out dated or a little bit “old” then instead just save the money you would be using to spend on those presents but watch out for rising prices. As it gets closer to the holiday (unless it’s a birthday that’s in an off season) prices in certain categories tend to rise. A good way to balance it out is to buy some more generic presents ahead of time and then buy the very special items just before the holiday that way your loved one will be able to have lots of nice gifts while you won’t have to worry about breaking your bank.

If you’re working with a particularly tight budget and don’t have a lot of time to save up money a great thing to do is to call on family and friends to help you. Many friends will donate toys or clothes from their children that they’ve grown out of and these, if they’re in fairly good condition, can make more than suitable presents. Also if you yourself have an item that you’ve never used it can be “re-gifted” as well - often times with a lot of success. Many times family members will offer to loan you a bit of money during the holiday season and then once the rush is over you can pay them back or return the favor somehow.

Another great way to save on presents is to have “homemade” holidays. Have everyone get in on the fun and get creative by enrolling the entire family in making homemade presents for each other. If you set a rule that no money or a certain limit of money (like ten or fifteen dollars) is allowed to be spent then you can ensure that no one feels neglected and everyone stays within their budget. This can also be a great way to take the focus of the holiday off the focus of gift-giving and more on the focus of being with family members. You can even make it a family activity to make presents for each other. One year my family all went to a pottery store and each picked out a bowl for another family member and then decorated that bowl in a way that family member would like. These were all our christmas presents to each other and we had a really great time making them for each other. If spending money isn’t an option for your holiday at all take the focus off gifts entirely and focus on giving to others. Many families instead of giving presents at christmas instead choose to give their time and energy to serve those that don’t have a family during holiday seasons. Things like cooking meals for others, donating time at shelters, or helping decorate hospitals or nursing homes take the focus off the materialism that can be such a big part of holidays and places it back on the values that really make the holidays special.

The gifts and the presents that come with holidays will quickly become old and forgotten but memories made during special times will be treasured for much much longer. Don’t stress about a holiday budget - instead use it as an opportunity to get back to the essence of what the holidays really mean and to reconnect with your loved ones while celebrating special days throughout the year.