Build a Better Holiday Budget

Some Tips and Tools

HSPheaderThe holidays are an exciting time, with plenty of food, friends, family, and fun to be had. Oh, and the presents; those are nice, too.

The problem for far too many of us, however, is that we get a bit too excited when it comes to our giving. Sure, exchanging gifts is a wonderful thing, but not if that pile of presents becomes an avalanche of bills a few months later. The key is to find a balance between generosity and your budget, and there are a couple of tips and tools that can help.


It might be getting awfully close the holidays, but there is still time to save at least a little bit now. Even if you just take $50 out of your next three checks and set it aside, that’s $150 you won’t have to put on credit.

Of course, now is also a good time to start planning for next year’s holiday season. How? After the holidays, write down some gift ideas for those on your usual list. Then, as the year goes on, buy those gifts when you have the extra money or when they are on sale. By spreading your spending out over the course of months, rather than cramming it into weeks or even days, you should be able to buy even more gifts than you usually do—and without having to use credit.


First is a Holiday Spending Worksheet from While somewhat simple, it includes a number of items many people forget to plan for during the holidays, such as food and decorations. And it’s from Bankrate, which is a very trusted site.

The next is from Practical Money Skills and takes a different approach: instead of asking you to list what you’ll spend on each item, it asks for your total holiday budget up front. Then, as you add in figures, it does the calculations to see how you’re doing. (You might be surprised just how quickly things add up.)

The holidays are always brighter when you don't have to stress out about how to pay for them. Just remember that, no matter how much (or little) you spend, you can’t put a price on the memories.

Mark Dye

About the author: Mark Dye

Mark Dye has been writing articles, recording podcasts, and putting together books on personal finance for nearly a decade. His work has been recognized by the American Bankers Association and the Institute for Financial Literacy, and received an 2011 APEX Grand Award for Writing. Follow Mark on Google+.

Contact: Mark Dye


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