With the season of joy comes a blizzard of expenses – and we don’t just mean holiday shopping. You may find yourself shelling out for parties, outings, tipping, decorations, holiday cards and more.
You could just keep mindlessly digging into your wallet. Or you could learn how to manage your holiday output.
We asked three personal finance writers how they control their holiday spending. Here’s what they told us:
Meg Favreau, Senior Editor, Wise Bread
“I like discussing gift-giving plans with my friends and family before the day to give gifts actually arrives. It’s not a Big Conversation, just an informal check-in about whether we’re going to exchange gifts and how much we’re going to spend.
Sometimes I’ve discovered that I have different expectations than the other person, or we’ll agree that we’d rather spend time together doing something special instead of giving gifts. Either way, it helps to avoid hurt feelings and almost always means that we save money.”
Liz Weston, Personal Finance Columnist and author of the book Your Credit Score and the e-book There Are No Dumb Questions About Money
“It’s pretty geeky, but I love my holiday spreadsheet. It’s just an Excel workbook that I use every year to budget and keep track of our spending. It includes a list of the people we’re making gifts or buying for and a budget for each, along with where any already-purchased gifts are stored and whether any still need to be shipped.
It also includes how much we expect to spend on travel, decorating, entertaining, clothes and holiday tips. And if we’re heading over the spending limit in any area, I either look for ways to cut back or carve out some money from another area to keep us in line. We don’t carry credit card balances, so everything has to be paid off when the bills come.
I also make sure to have some extra cash built into the budget so I can buy toys and games for future birthday parties and to take advantage of after-Christmas sales.”
Trent Hamm, Founder, The Simple Dollar
“Our family actually makes a lot of the gifts we exchange. We make jars of homemade salsa, jams and jellies. We bake cookies. Some of my friends and family members are particularly skilled at certain crafts, so they make things like earthenware plates and mugs.
Obviously, this saves us a lot of money because we’re not simply opening up our wallets at the local shopping center. But it also gives us a lot more time with our families during the holiday season. When we make a batch of salsa, the whole family is involved. I dice up tomatoes, my oldest son gets jars out of the closet, and my wife is busy sterilizing equipment. When we make cookies, we let our other children add ingredients to the mix and we taste them as they come out of the oven.
Spending less is secondary, though it’s a nice perk. The real benefit of doing the holidays in a homemade fashion is the time I get to spend with the people I care about the most.”
How do you manage your holiday spending? What’s the toughest holiday expense to control?