Stick to your holiday budget with these tips

It's not so hard -- trust us!

You’ve created the perfect holiday budget, so now what? Sticking to your budget may be easier than you think. We’ve got some tips for you that may help you stay disciplined, reduce holiday stress and make your wallet extra happy!

Tip #1: Set realistic expectations with family members and loved ones

There’s nothing like seeing people’s faces light up when they open your gift. But you shouldn’t have to go broke because you just HAD to get that gift. We recommend setting expectations for your loved ones (and yourself, for that matter) — REAL expectations. If someone asks you for something you can’t afford, it’s OK to say “maybe next year” or find another nice way to say it’s just not going to happen. For certain friends or family, try suggesting a “one gift rule” with each other with a spending limit, and stick to it. It’s fun to give gifts, but you know what’s not fun? Regretting spending too much money when you see your bank account balance on January 1.

Tip #2: Shop early

If you shop earlier, you’ll have a better grasp of how much you’re spending (and how much you may or may not have left over). It’ll also give you time to check out sales and properly price items on your gift list. Last-minute shopping creates an environment where you’re more willing to spend more just to get everything on your list.

Tip #3: Don’t forget about your other obligations

The holidays are an emotional time, but it’s important not to let those emotions get the best of you. While shopping, keep in mind the other things you definitely need money for, the things you can’t put on hold just because you got caught up in the holiday spirit. We’re talking about things like your rent, car payment or credit card payments. Remember these financial obligations will still be around once the holidays are over. If you need to keep a constant reminder, add them to your holiday shopping list so they’ll be on your mind.

Tip #4: Stick to cash only, avoid credit card usage

If you can, we recommend using cash for all of your purchases. Physically holding the amount of money dedicated to holiday spending will help you stick to your budget. Make a plan to not spend more than you have on hand. If you do need to use a credit card for purchases, which we don’t recommend since you’ll likely be tempted to overspend, be sure to come up with a proper payment plan to pay off those purchases as soon as possible.

Tip #5: Be cautious of sales pitches

Don’t let the holiday shopping hype get to you! The only goal of these stores is to sell you lots and lots of items. Be comfortable with turning down offers for store credit cards and pushes for additional items you don’t need. Steer clear of buy now, pay later offers.

Tip #6: Keep track of your spending

You’ve already set up a budget, but it’s important to keep notes of everything you’ve spent. We suggest using a spreadsheet (like ours, which you can download here) to keep track, but anything works, even just a piece of paper. Knowing how much you’ve spent is the only way to know how much money you have left to spend.

Tip #7: Keep in mind that special gifts don’t have to cost a ton of money

Come up with some fun holiday traditions that create a lifetime of memories without creating a hole in your wallet! Here are some suggestions: Have a PJ party and watch your favorite movie, decorate Christmas cookies, make your own holiday gifts for family and friends, decorate ornaments and make your own decorations, read holiday-themed books together, volunteer together. Spending real, meaningful time with your loved ones is worth more than any gift you can purchase.

What are your tricks and tips for sticking to your holiday budget?