The holidays are right around the corner and you have a plan: Ready. Set. Go. Shop! While you may have plans to meet your girlfriend at 4:00am for a quick breakfast before heading to the big “day after Thanksgiving” sales, do you have a plan to rein in your spending?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend, spend, spend. Even if you walk away with bargains galore, you still have a full month of shopping opportunities ahead of you. Do you have the discipline to control yourself or will you be paying for your Christmas purchase for months to come?
If you didn’t categorize your spending, you can look at spending by month and see the spikes in your spending during December. If you used credit cards and still have your old statements, take a look at your purchases.
Knowing what you spent before is eye-opening and will motivate you to control yourself. If you can’t determine how much money the holidays have cost you in the past, spending this year. Come up with a figure that you can live with – without resorting to your credit cards if at all possible. Next, make a list of your projected holiday expenses.
An Excel spreadsheet is an ideal tool that you can use to sum up your budgets but a paper, pencil, and calculator will do. Include the following categories: Gifts (with subcategories for family, close friends, and associates (teachers, co-workers, neighbors, and so forth) Christmas tree or other major holiday decorations, Miscellaneous decorations, Cards and postage, Shipping, Ingredients for baked goods including items for packaging the finished goods, Gift wrapping supplies.
Anything else you customarily purchase during the holidays
Now start estimating and write down your estimates. Try to be as realistic as possible. If you know you’ll need to ship three packages across country and they usually cost about $15 each, write down $45 in the shipping category. Consider how much you’re willing to pay for each type of gift recipient. You may want to spend $30 per family member, $20 per friend, and $10 per associate.
On a separate sheet, list all recipients and assign your desired amount based on their category. Add up the totals and see how much you are anticipating spending based on these preliminary numbers. You may be surprised at how much the total ends up being, even with modest per person amounts. Once you’ve entered your estimated expenses per category, add them up.
How does your total compare with your desired spending limit? If you’re hoping to spend $750 total this year but your projected expenses add up to well over $1000, you have some work ahead of you. If your projected expenses are close, you’re in good shape for starters. Maybe your wiggle room during the holidays but double check to make sure you didn’t overlook something.
Chances are good that your ideal spending limit won’t match perfectly with your estimated projection. Now it’s time to adjust. By taking a few minutes to analyze your projections, you can make the necessary adjustments. Maybe you can balance it out by lower your gift amount by a few dollars per person.
Or buying gifts for the out-of-towners online and taking advantage of free shipping offers that certain websites offer. Tweak the figures until the numbers match and you have a budget that you can live with that is realistic. Print out your final copy or rewrite it neatly and tuck a copy in Your work isn’t done yet.
Now that you have a written plan you need to follow through and track each expense as you go. By tracking your expenses, you will know if you are staying on budget or going overboard on your spending.