The B Word: Take these 5 steps to create the perfect holiday budget

No need to fall behind financially.

We’re not quite sure where this year went, but it seemed like we blinked and all of a sudden the holiday season is here! While it’s fun and special to give gifts (and receive them, of course!), it’s important to be able to do so without falling behind financially. That’s where the “B” word comes in. Turns out, budgeting doesn’t have to be scary or complicated — all you need is a little bit of organization and discipline and you’re good to go! Sticking to a budget will keep you from falling behind and make your life a whole lot easier once the holidays are over.

Ready to take the plunge and create a holiday budget? Follow the five steps below!

1. Come up with a spending limit

Be realistic! How much money can you afford to spend on gifts and other holiday expenses. Going shopping without an idea of how much you can spend increases the chance you’ll overspend. While you take the time to really consider how much money you can put aside for holiday shopping, this may also be the time you consider other low-cost traditions that may mean just as much or more than physical gifts (like a potluck/cookie swap or a secret gift exchange).

2. Create a complete list of holiday expenses and gifts

If Santa makes a list every year, why shouldn’t you do it, too? Include each family member and friend to whom you are planning to give a gift. If you have an idea of what you want to buy for each person, include that on your list, too. (Consider listing more than one item so you have options that appropriately fit your budget.) When creating this list, don’t forget other holiday expenses like decorations, cards and gift wrap. These are sneaky holiday items that most forget to budget for, but they add up!

3. Educate yourself

Pay attention to sales, and price out the items on your list. Does it make more sense to buy now or wait until Black Friday/Cyber Monday? Are there ways you can get cash back on certain items? Educating yourself on the best prices and times to buy will pay off in the long run. And it might even help keep you under budget!

4. Assign money to each category or individual

You’ve already decided your spending limit, now it’s time to break that up and assign it. How much can you put towards family gifts? Are there certain family members you’d like to spend more on than others? Setting your individual spending expectations now will make life a lot easier for you. Trust us!

5. Keep track of your spending

We’ve created a spreadsheet that will help you keep track of everything — from gifts to gift wrap. Fill it in as you shop for the holidays so you can keep track of your spending. Being able to see where your money is going is not only helpful, but will also help you stick to your budget. Download the spreadsheet here.

Now that you’ve made a budget, all you have to do is follow it! Our blog post on sticking to your budget should help you stay disciplined. Happy shopping!