Budgeting for the holidays


By Sara Creamer - OSU Extension Money Management Program Coordinator



Before we get to the budget, let’s consider your gift giving philosophy. Do you give gifts to impress or out of obligation? Does it have to be the “perfect” gift? Do you prefer to give gifts that agree with the interests or needs of the recipient? Your cat loving cousin may not appreciate the sweater with the doggies on it. Budget, spend, and give inspired by your gift giving philosophy. Holiday giving does not have to be a competition. Your philosophy can be more about meaning and less about the amount you spend.

With that said, the next thing to do is to make a plan. Having a plan reduces stress, helps avoid emotional spending and last minute shopping, and holiday guilt. The most important thing is it helps you avoid debt. Avoiding holiday debt is a gift you give yourself after the holidays are over.

The first step is to decide how much you have to spend. This is the amount you will divide up among your holiday expenses. This amount should cover all expenses not just the presents on your gift list. Do not forget the cards and postage, shipping, gift wrap, decorations, meals, and hostess gifts. If you are making gifts including baking, the supplies are part of the budget. I suggest budgeting an amount for after holiday sales. This might give you a jump start on next year with cards, wrapping paper, and decorations.

Next plan how much to spend on each person and write it down. Think through this gift list. Do you really need to give a gift to everyone in the family? Maybe your cousin would appreciate a homemade card with a coupon inviting them to a home cooked meal. Spending time with a person may be a better gift than a doggie sweater. Be sure you have included a category for non-gift expenses and itemize those expenses.

A list of gift ideas for each person keeps you focused. Stick to the list. You should track your purchases and spending. This keeps you from buying a gift twice or impulse buying. If you find just the right thing, it is within your budget, and you have not bought a gift already, you can check that gift off your list.

To help pare down your gift list, start a new tradition. Draw names in your office group or among the cousins, a Secret Santa gift giving could be fun, make a Hanukkah themed craft each night, or organize a group donation to a charity instead of giving gifts. Keep the gifts small by using some practical and fun stocking stuffers. Plan a family experience. My family drives through a local Christmas light show. It benefits a charity, so it does double duty. The people on your gift list might enjoy a gift of your time.

We are used to making a Christmas list. Even Santa has a list. Making a spending list and checking it twice will keep you within your planned budget.

If you have questions, contact your county Extension professional or Sara Creamer at [email protected] or 740-466-3086.

By Sara Creamer

OSU Extension Money Management Program Coordinator