Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Setting the ‘Ol Budget

Piggy Bank

Last week, we discussed how to write your list and why you need to do it so early (If you missed it, read this post).  I’m sure all of you have at least a partial list written, if not, take a few minutes today and jot down everyone you intend to purchase for this season.  Also include other holiday expenses, such as cards, postage, food, gift wrap, etc.  This should not take very long and will help with setting your budget.

Once you’ve gotten your list ready, it much easier to allocate your budget, but first, you must set an overall budget.  Your overall budget can either be the amount of actual cash you’d like to spend or the total retail value of all gifts.  I recommend using actual cash, so that you do not get caught up in deal shopping and exceed your budget. 

You also need to take a few other things into consideration:

  • Will you set an amount per family or per person?  If you have a sibling that’s married with 6 children and another with only 2, will you spend the same amount on each person or each family? 
  • Will your budgeted amount be for retail value or what you actually spent on it?  If you have a $25 budget for Cousin Joe and you find a $25 video game for $5, will you consider the game his only gift or will you keep shopping until you’ve physically spent $25? (I still recommend setting your overall budget as the maximum you hope to spend)
  • Do any of your gift exchanges impose limits?  If so, make sure you follow them!

Here’s an example of a very simple Christmas budget:

Person Each Overall Budget
Spouse $50 $50
Child (x3) $100 $300
Parents (x4) $25 $100
Siblings (x6) $20 $120
Nieces/Nephews (x8) $20 $140
Teachers (x2) $20 $40
Decorations/Tree $50 $50
Gift Wrap $30 $30
Cards/Postage $40 $40
Donations $100 $100
Food $140 $140
Total   $1,000

Let’s say that you have a $1,000 overall budget (for the sake of perfectly rounded numbers).  You may want to spend $100 one each of your kids, $25 on your parents, $20 on your siblings and their children, etc. (see above chart). 

It’s very important to figure in incidentals such as foods for parties, hostess gifts, Christmas dinner, stocking stuffers, etc.  

I’ve created a very simple Christmas budget Excel spreadsheet that will help you stay on budget.  Try to update it every time you purchase a gift!  You can download it here:

In the next post in the Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season, we’ll talk about super easy ways to sock away some extra cash to help combat that budget! 

I’m curious, what is your Christmas budget?  Overall or per family?  Leave a comment below!


  1. Lindy W says

    I have a 13 and a 3 year old. Until this year my 13 year old has been spoiled rotten, which was fine because the 3 year old really wasnt into Christmas yet, however this year my husband and I have decided about $100 per kid plus stocking stuffers. Things have been really tight this year so thats what we are doing. :)


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