5 Tips to Planning & Budgeting for the Holidays

mother and daughter look at bills

Sit down with a calendar and take note of any travel plans you'll have for the upcoming holidays. Extended travel can be costly, and you'll want to be sure you have expenses covered before the week of departure. If your vehicle requires maintenance before hitting the road, you might have additional spending for new tires or oil changes. Even if your travels are local, be mindful of associated costs and create your list of needed budget amounts. You can begin saving now and work towards meeting those costs by collecting change or moving manageable amounts each week into savings. Here are some of the best tips for planning and budgeting for the holidays this year:

Don’t Forget Dinners, Lunches & Baking When Budgeting for the Holidays

Baking days with the kids, assembling platters or hosting Thanksgiving in your home, all present budget considerations for supplies and ingredients. Start planning now by allocating small amounts in a 'food fund' to make sure you have what you need.

Gifting & Thrifting

One of the best tips in terms of budgeting for the holidays is to organize your gift ideas and consider thrifting. Assemble a roster of friends and family, for whom you plan to buy gifts. Don't forget to include any office exchange gift-giving or your children's teachers if they make the cut. Identify the big-ticket items that will cost the most on everyone's wish list. You can pre-plan by saving up now and arranging potential layaway purchases. For everything else on your list, hit the thrift stores, Craigslist, and retail store off-season sales. You can pick up a few smaller gifts over time, and within budget, while checking off your list. Shopping for deals now can help you avoid costly impulse buys those few weeks before Christmas as well.

DIY Cost Saving

Instead of buying holiday cards to send, or hiring a photographer to capture your family portrait for cards, consider more DIY ideas to express your holiday cheer. Have the kids design or draw personalized cards for friends and family. Organize a family day where you make homemade ornaments out of everyday household items. Instead of buying wrapping paper for gifts, use comics from the local newspaper. Consider wrapping gifts with brown paper sacks, and having your children decorate them. Make use of online DIY hacks to help trim unnecessary spending. Involve the family to help and truly create unique gifts and memories at the same time.

Charitable Contributions

If you normally contribute to local charities monetarily, start saving now to make sure you can do so again this year. If your budget constraints limit what you have available to give, there are a host of free-to-you volunteer efforts that might be an ideal substitute. Involve the family for a day at the local animal shelter, cleaning pet areas. Visit nursing homes to sing carols. Volunteer to help serve lunch at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Downsize your own closets and make donations of winter gear or unused toys. Keep the spirit of giving in your heart, but be mindful of your budget so you can be prepared.

The holidays can be demanding on a household budget. But, with proper planning now, you can alleviate some of the spending anxiety, and have a budget and plan to see you through the end of the year. Following these tips will give you a great start when it comes to budgeting for the holidays this year.