7 tips for Holiday Budget Success

Budgeting year round is a big enough challenge, but preparing for the holiday season can add an additional layer of intricacy. Planning in advance and starting shopping for the holiday season early can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with this expensive time of year. 

We’ve rounded up some finance experts to share their top tips for sticking to a budget throughout the holidays.


1. Create a Holiday Specific Budget

“The first step to a happy holiday is to create a budget to cover all your extra expenses. That includes gifts, travel, decorations, wrapping paper, cards, and postage,” says Chris Miller, a financial professional at One Atlanta Wealth Advisors. “Take a budget worksheet with you as you’re shopping and write down everything you buy for the holidays. Once you’ve hit your spending limit, leave the mall.” 

Shopping with a budget will help you avoid the temptation to add on just one more small gift. 

2. Establish a Holiday Savings Fund

If overspending is a challenge for you, create a separate savings account just for holiday gifts and contribute to it year round. When you begin shopping for gifts, use only funds from that account. Paired with a budget for how much you plan to spend on each element of the holiday season you will be successful at sticking to your plan.

3. Shop with Cash

Studies have found that people spend 15-20 percent more on purchases paid with a credit card. “Stick to your holiday shopping plan by putting the budgeted amount of cash for each gift recipient into your wallet before heading to the store,” says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations with Freedom Financial Network. “If you start with large bills [$50] you will hold onto it longer.”  

4. Plan for Family Meals in advance

If you know it’s your turn to host Thanksgiving or another family celebration, create a meal plan ahead of time. Confirm who will be attending and begin setting aside resources to cover the costs of the meal.

Home cooking is less expensive than going out, but when you’re feeding a crowd things add up. If you can, ask attendees to bring along sides or desserts to both lessen the time needed to cook and lower the overall cost of the meal.

5. Shop for Holiday Grocery Staples Year Round

“Make your meal plan now for the holidays, and keep track of the prices on any non-perishable items you’ll need,” says Mindy Jensen, Community Manager at BiggerPockets.com. “When you see something dip way down low, buy it to maximize your savings.”

Items like flour, chocolate chips and canned goods keep for months at a time. Stocking up when items are on sale will help you avoid the grocery store rush on a holiday weekend and allow you to make the most out of early season discounts.

6. Create new family traditions

As families grow, buying gifts for everyone might be an unrealistic practice to continue. If gift giving is important to you, establish family traditions where children continue to receive presents and adults participate in a secret Santa gift exchange or white elephant. Set a budget amount for the extended family to stay within and enjoy a group celebration without needing to exchange gifts with the entire crew.

7. Shop the sales

We all know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are chaotic, but sometimes it’s worth the effort to secure the best prices of the year. Scout out sales using store flyers ahead of time to determine what shops are must go-tos on those days.

If you aren’t after doorbusters wait until the afternoon to get in and out when things calm down. Some stores, Target in particular, will provide rain checks on items that have sold out. Rain checks allow you to lock in the sale price, but allows you to pick them up later in the season. (This only works with ‘sale’ prices, not doorbusters).


No matter what your holiday budget may be, the spirit of the season is celebration and family togetherness. Stay true to your values and you’re bound to always enjoy the time you spend together.

Looking for more holiday budgeting tips? Check out our post on how to make extra cash in time for the holidays.

Photo Credits: Pixabay, Pexels, Ginny, 401k 2012

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Anne Murlowski

Annie is a lifestyle blogger from the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. She lives just outside Denver with her husband Drew and their Corgi Rogue. Offline she works as a marketing manager specializing in digital marketing and social media. You can find Annie, and her passion for all things Colorado, DIY, Cooking and Decor at RockyMtnBliss. or on Twitter at @RockyMtnBliss.

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