Spending too much money to make the seasons happier can lead to great post-vacation regrets.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Vacation Spend Survey, retail experts predict the average consumer will spend $ 997.73 on gifts, groceries, decorations, and more this year. Is There A Thousand Dollars More In Your Budget?
When you start out with your Christmas shopping, it is important to figure out how much money to spend before figuring out what to spend your money on. That means creating a budget.
If you take an hour to check your numbers and come up with a vacation budget, you can keep that Christmas cheer (and a little extra cash) going into the new year.
How to create a vacation budget
Feel free to create your vacation budget using your preferred method, be it an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet, pen-and-paper budget, or budgeting app.
Whichever you choose, having the information on hand can help you stay within your spending limit and avoid impulse buying.
1. Analyze your current debt
It may not be pleasant, but it is necessary: Before doing anything else, you should take a close look at your debt – especially your credit card debt.
If you have more on your credit cards than you can withdraw this month, please reconsider participating in the Christmas shopping frenzy. A much better use of your hard-earned money would be to pay off your credit card balance.
Skipping expensive gifts doesn’t mean you can’t shower your friends and family with love. You can hand-make gifts (here are some affordable gift ideas) or give them service coupons for favors – like cleaning their house or preparing dinner for them.
Because a gift from the heart often means more than something that goes out of style next year.
2. Project your total vacation income
Credit cards in mind? It’s time to estimate the total amount you will make over the holiday season.
Getting the same paycheck every two weeks makes it easy – double your paycheck for your monthly income.
Think outside of the paycheck for your vacation savings pool: Do you have any old gift cards that you can use to buy (or give away) gifts?
If your salary is irregular, it will take a little more effort to determine your income. One option is to look at your pay slips or bank accounts from that time in the past year. (Check out this budgeting guide if your income changes month to month.)
If your job – or your salary – has changed since last year, you can calculate the average of your earnings over the last three months. (If you have a particularly high month, throw it away; better to be wrong on the lower side.)
Remember to include money from part-time jobs and seasonal jobs as well.
3. Make a list of expenses
Once you know how much you will be making during the vacation, it is time to calculate your expenses.
Before deciding how much to devote to vacation expenses, check your monthly budget to see what extra expenses you have – or what expenses you can cut back – to cover the extra expenses.
Subtract your regular expenses – like rent or mortgage, utility bills, groceries, and gasoline – from your projected income to find out how much money you have in your budget for the holidays.
Also, be sure to check your calendar: if the deadline for annual payments like car registration or HOA fees falls during the holiday season, be sure to include them in your expenses.
4. Assign categories for vacation expenses
Now is the time to figure out how to fit your vacation expenses into your budget.
Start by estimating your projected vacation spend by category, excluding gifts. Some expenses that might be on your list:
- Gift wrapping.
- Holiday meals.
- Holiday parties.
- Vacation clothes.
- Vacation cards.
- Professional vacation photos.
After you have determined these expenses, subtract that amount from your vacation budget. Now you have your purchasing budget.
Is the amount less than you would like? Consider cutting out other categories if gift giving is your priority.
5. Create a shopping list
All right, Santa Claus, who’s on your list?
It would be easy to spend too much if you stopped putting together the things you want to buy. Instead, create a vacation budget worksheet with the following information:
- Budgeted amount
- Gift idea
- Where buy
- Sales, Coupons, and Discounts (and deadlines or expiration dates)
Keeping your list within your budget may take a little give and take. If you put your heart in buying mom that $ 300 blender but you can only spend $ 500 total, can you find inexpensive gifts for the rest of your list?
6. Start tracking prices
One of the keys to smart Christmas shopping is patience. Well, patience and research.
Check prices in multiple stores before buying. Price tracking and price comparison tools abound.
BuyHatke is a useful browser extension that compares and tracks prices. When you shop on Amazon, it also displays price history charts so you can see if the current price is really a bargain. Or try the SlickDeals app, which will notify you when prices drop in certain categories or in your favorite stores.
Or try out money-saving Chrome extensions that will do that for you – we have 15 that can save you money.
7. Stick with it!
This step may be the last, but it’s one of the most important (and definitely the hardest to follow).
Sticking to your budget is the only way to avoid a vacation hangover – at least financially. It takes some willpower, but it’s worth it.
To help, create a vacation expense category using an all-in-one tool like Mint (check out our Mint review).
Do you want to put an end to the endless (and expensive) pile of gifts? Try creating a new holiday tradition: the four-gift rule.
If you prefer it tactile, subtract your Christmas shopping budget in cash and keep it in a jar.
When you buy something online or with a credit card, take that amount out of the jar and put it in a separate envelope that you can put back into your checking account later. Once the glass is empty, so is your vacation budget.
Susan Shain is a contributing writer for The Penny Hoarder.