Budgeting for Christmas, especially when money is tight or you’re in debt, can be stressful. However, it’s more difficult if you wait until November or December to start preparing for the holidays.
I know because I’ve been there.
Trying to come up with the cash to get that perfect present definitely takes some of the cheer out of the most wonderful time of the year!
The sooner you start planning, the easier it’ll be to afford the holidays.
With many families facing uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to come up with a plan to have a Merry Christmas, no matter what. You don’t need a ton of cash to do that, but you do need a game plan.
While budgeting for Christmas shopping may not be a priority right now, it will become increasingly important as the holiday season approaches.
Don’t be left wondering how you’ll afford gifts this December.
These tips help you get a head start on the holiday season right now:
Tips for Budgeting for Christmas Gifts Early
Review your monthly budget
Now is the time to go through your budget and look for any opportunities to cut spending or adjust categories.
Cut out unnecessary items like a tv streaming service that you haven’t watched much lately, or a recurring monthly subscription that you can put on pause temporarily.
Look for areas where you can spend less.
Focus on making changes that will bring your costs down. One way to do that is by making a conscious effort to cut your bills as much as possible.
Consider a cheaper cell phone plan, build better habits to reduce your utility bills, and search for a better deal on auto and home insurance. Taking a little time to find a better rate on services you use and need can save you money monthly and annually.
Scour your budget for trouble spots where you know that you can do better. Try to lower your grocery bill by switching to generic brands, using coupons, shopping sales, and shopping at discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl.
Budgeting for Christmas shopping isn’t something you should do in December.
If your monthly budget includes sinking funds, make Christmas gifts one of your categories. This way, you can set aside a little cash from each pay period. When it comes time to shop, you’ll have the money available to spend on gifts.
Seek out extra income opportunities
If you know that the holidays will be pretty tight, in terms of cash flow, then now is the time to start seeking out extra income opportunities. You need to start a side hustle, do odd jobs, take on gig work, etc.
Even if your financial situation is stable, it never hurts to have a way to bring home extra money.
Find something that suits your skills, fits into your schedule, and can bring you some much needed extra income.
There are lots of ways to make money outside of a part-time or full-time job. You could deliver food or groceries with apps like:
If working from home and online is more your thing, consider things like taking surveys, offering services on Fiverr or UpWork, or tutoring. I use Fiverr to make money writing online because it’s flexible, allows me to set my rate, and helps me bring in money while staying at home with my kids.
Find out more about how I earn on Fiverr.
The key to finding a side hustle or extra income ideas that work for you is by considering what skills you have to offer and how much time and effort you can devote to it.
Other fun ways to earn extra income include dog walking or pet sitting or offering lawn care services like mowing grass and raking leaves in your neighborhood.
If you have a car, working as a shopper and delivery driver makes sense. If you have to stay at home and can work online, offering services as a virtual assistant, freelance writer or designer, or tutor are excellent options.
See what works for you and don’t be afraid to try out different things. Remember that you aren’t making a career change or a major commitment, you’re just looking to bring home some extra cash.
Make a shopping list
Before you start buying, write out a list of everyone you need to purchase a gift for. Knowing who you have to buy for makes it easier to break down your gift budget and determine how much you can spend on each person.
If you typically buy for everyone in your extended family or your friend group, suggest doing a Pollyanna or White Elephant gift exchange. Not only could it be a great way to spend less on gifts overall, but it can also be the start of a fun new tradition with your loved ones.
Don’t feel pressured to buy for everyone and anyone just because.
Be thoughtful when making your list and start looking for deals early.
If you’re shopping for your kids, ask them to start giving you ideas of what they want to see under the tree this year. Jot down their wish list and keep it handy so that you can compare prices.
Shop sales and clearance sections
My favorite way to get great deals on gifts is by shopping sales and clearance items starting in the summer.
When I see something that I know would make a great gift and it’s discounted for a great price, I pick it up. I then tuck the items away in a special spot, hidden from my kids, of course!
An empty storage tote is perfect for gathering gifts throughout the year. By the time Christmas approaches, I can look at what I already have and then fill in the rest with their wishlist items.
Creating a gift closet is a smart way to have presents on hand when birthdays and holidays roll around. It allows you to simply “shop” your closet.
Rather than waiting until December to start buying things, do it over several months.
This means less pain for your budget during the holidays. It can also eliminate the need for shopping with credit cards.
If money’s tight at Christmas, the last thing you want to do is run up a credit card bill that comes due in January. By planning and spreading out your spending ahead of time, you’ll need to charge less over the holidays.
Which brings us to the next tip…
Avoid using credit
When budgeting for Christmas gifts, please don’t rely on credit cards. Don’t dig yourself into a post-holiday hole of credit card debt just to buy a bunch of presents. Once the bill comes due in January, you’ll feel overwhelmed.
It’s never a good idea to rely on credit cards to get by if you aren’t comfortable that you can pay it off quickly. Unforeseen circumstances can wreck even the best-laid plans, as many people have unfortunately found out this year.
Only use credit cards to buy gifts if you know for sure that you can pay off the bill in full each month.
Credit cards can be a good tool to use if you have a rewards card, but you have to be sure that you won’t miss a payment, pay late, and get hit with a higher interest rate.
By starting to think ahead now, you might be able to pull off a frugal Christmas that your loved ones will enjoy and appreciate without adding strain to your financial situation.
A few more tips when budgeting for Christmas gifts
One of the best options if you can’t afford to buy gifts is to make them instead. Heck, even if you can afford to buy, DIY presents are still an awesome option.
That’s because handmade gifts are extra special since they require thought and effort.
Come up with a gift that’s personalized for the recipient. Explore Pinterest for cool ideas. Friends and family will be so impressed that you took the time to put in the effort to make something just for them.
Create a dollar store gift basket
Yes, you can put together an inexpensive and thoughtful gift basket using items from the dollar store!
This is a great way to give a creative but useful gift on a tight budget. You can choose a theme for the basket or you can put together things that you know the receiver would enjoy and appreciate.
For example, you could make a movie night themed basket with popcorn, a cute popcorn bucket, movie theater-style boxes of candy, sodas, and even a DVD or Blu-Ray (the Dollar Tree carries a variety of titles).
So many dollar tree items are impressive in their quality these days. You can find cute decor, candy and snacks, office supplies, kitchenware, books, craft supplies, and so much more.
By combining items and arranging them in a gift basket, you can create a great gift for just $5 or $10.
Get more gift basket theme ideas here!
Budgeting for Christmas Shopping- The Bottom Line
Christmas may seem far away, but it’ll be here before you know it! Getting a head start on your Christmas budget will help you spread out the expenses over the next few months.
Make a list, check it twice, review your budget, and earn extra income. By being proactive now, you’ll be able to enjoy a stress-free holiday season.
Don’t wait until November or December to begin budgeting for Christmas shopping. Start planning early so that you can cover everyone on your nice list this year.