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Get Financially Fit! | Holiday Budgeting

Posted: November 10, 2016

Holiday Budgeting

Don't Break the Bank When Budgeting for the Holidays

By Samantha Olson, Teller
New Richmond Office
WESTconsin Credit Union

I love Christmas. It is honestly one of my favorite times of the year. I play Christmas music all December, have the tree and decorations up Thanksgiving weekend, and spend weeks baking goodies and watching holiday movies. But my absolute favorite part of Christmas is watching my kids open their gifts on Christmas morning. Their excitement is contagious and the joy on their faces reminds me how lucky I am to have all three of them. However, preparing for my absolute favorite part of Christmas can also be the most stressful part of the holiday season.

My husband and I both work, and we have three kids, two in extra curricular activities and one still in diapers. The expense of daycare, every day bills, and the other unforeseeable expenses sometimes take away from the fun of getting just the right gifts for the kids during the holidays. Once we had two kids, we knew we needed to come up with a better plan that included making new traditions that didn’t break the bank. Not an easy feat, but it is doable.

The most helpful thing we’ve found, and probably the most obvious, is to set money aside throughout the year. It is sometimes easier said then done, but just taking five dollars out of every paycheck from January through October builds a cushion of at least one hundred dollars. When shopping for gifts, that little bit will go a long way. I usually think “out of sight, out of mind,” but that doesn’t mean that cash needs to be socked away at home. Many financial institutions, like WESTconsin Credit Union, offer savings account options for members to utilize when attempting to maximize their shopping experience. 

One of my favorite money saving tricks is making a list. I use this weekly with our grocery shopping but have found it to be helpful with Christmas shopping too. Make a list that includes who you need to buy for, what you are going to get them, and what you can afford to spend. This helps to keep the impulse buying to a minimum, which is hard to do during the holidays. Once you have each gift, cross it off and write down what the cost is so you can be prepared for the checkout line. Also, by writing down the cost of each gift, you can monitor if you are staying within the allotted budget. It might sound like a lot of work, but it truly does help to have a visual.

Shopping for smaller gifts throughout the year also helps to keep in budget. By doing this, the expenses are spread throughout the year instead of concentrated in the last few months. Watch for sales on the things your child may want or need as a way to save a ton in the end.

Saving money and being a savvy shopper aren’t the only ways to stick to the budget though. My kids love drawing and coloring and we’ve found that the coloring or activity books at discount stores are of great quality and much less expensive than big name stores. Also, you can find fun pencils, crayons, and markers to go with the books to make an activity kit.

Sometimes, though, the best gifts are handmade. These gifts can be anything from sewing a blanket to making a bowling game with old vegetable cans painted in fun colors to coupons for a family movie night. These kinds of gifts are great because they are something to open that will create memories.

Another budget saver in our house comes with stocking stuffers. We usually start by picking out a couple smaller toys that cost fewer than two dollars, such as cars or yo-yos that typically get worn out from playing throughout the year. Along this line, we buy the kids new socks and underwear, since this is an expense we already have. Also, instead of a lot of candy, we fill their stockings with healthy treats that they can eat all week like fruit and nuts. Of course we get a box of candy canes to put a few in as well because what is Christmas without them?

Overall, there are a lot of tips and tricks to staying in budget for the holiday season. Some might work for you while others don’t, but I find that learning what other people do helps my husband and I keep to our budget and enjoy the shopping process during the holiday season. Budget savers can help you save and take some of the stress out of the season.

Saman­tha Ol­son, author

Saman­tha Ol­son is a teller at WEST­con­sin Credit Union. She lives in New Rich­mond with her hus­band, Derek, and three kids, Carter, Ray­lan and Mon­ica. When she’s not spend­ing time with her fam­ily, Saman­tha en­joys cook­ing, bak­ing, read­ing and writ­ing.

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