Reining in holiday spending

Reining in holiday spending

Feeling out of control is one of the fastest tracks to stress. Between self imposed pressure and family and social expectations, we can feel overwhelmed. Our calendar, to do list and bank account start to feel out of control.

Who is driving this bus, anyway?

At the end of the day, we are. It’s important to remember that no one is making us spend money and show up to all the parties. It might not feel like it, but we do have a choice.

Most people consider money a stressful part of life year round, and it’s only compounded in December. Let’s talk wise holiday spending for a minute.

Avoiding the topic altogether might be tempting, especially with a new year to start fresh around the corner. It’s a lot harder to “start fresh” if Christmas went on a credit card and is still hanging over your head January 1st and beyond.

Here comes the B word

Christmas budgeting is just like regular budgeting: it’s deciding ahead of time, on paper, how much you can spend, and how you are going to spend it. Dave Ramsey has a helpful, free budgeting tool specifically for Christmas.

People resist budgets because they fear it will put them behind bars. A budget sounds oppressive, but in truth, it sets you free. A budget puts control back in your hands. You get to decide how to allocate the resources God has given you.

In the past, I’ve felt out of control when we’re spending left and right, an online purchase here, a latte there, a birthday gift we forgot here. Though we spend more at Christmas, it doesn’t freak me out anymore because we have a plan.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinthians 9:7 

Having a budget helps me be a cheerful giver because buying presents for my family isn’t tainted with an undertone of guilt and dread. Buying gifts we can’t afford always leaves us feeling anxious. It zaps our energy and steals the joy this season has to offer.

My budget also helps me limit and prioritize spending. We chose not to send Christmas cards this year, even though I love them. We decided there were other places we’d rather spend that money. (Please keep me on your list if you’re sending cards though! I love getting them!)

Don’t forget these!

Finally, here are a few easily overlooked December budget items that have stressed me out in the past:

  • Extra money for groceries if you’re bringing a dish to share at holiday parties
  • Wine or other hostess gifts
  • Gift exchanges at work or with friends (I would be fine with eliminating these if anyone wants to start a movement.)
  • Tips for people like your hairstylist or postman. Here’s a helpful holiday tipping guide, if you’re looking for recommendations. Tip extra where you want to, but don’t do it out of obligation! (Just my two cents.)
  • Postage for Christmas cards or packages

How do you keep spending in check during the holidays?

This post is part of the doing less to build more: holiday edition series. To read more from this series, click here.

Photo Credit: Jeanne Masar via Compfight cc

5 thoughts on “Reining in holiday spending

  1. I love holiday gift exchanges at work so I am not joining your movement ;)! they are fun and you don’t have to get gifts for everyone – just one person. It makes it a quality gift and helps with the budget :)

    Bruce and I love our budget! We saved throughout the year to be able to buy the gifts we want for people and I love that feeling. We also saved up for an after Christmas vaca and we are pretty excited about that! Dave Ramsey is the best!

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