If you celebrate Christmas, you know that December is an expensive month. A few years ago, I decided that we needed a separate budget for December. I was amazed at how much money we spend. Here is a list of the items that I include in our budget:
(I've put them in a loose chronological order)
- Cards and postage: Military people tend to send lots of cards. Gets expensive fast!
- House decorations.
- Gingerbread house party, a family tradition.
- Nutcracker ballet, also a family tradition. Cheap tickets can be found if you look early and are flexible.
- Christmas party at our house – food and drink. We've skipped this the last few years and I miss it, but I don't really feel like having a big party when my husband isn't here.
- Teacher gifts.
- Tree, and decorations if we need anything new. I guess this could be free if you had an artificial tree and never needed anything new for your tree.
- Gifts! Plus wrapping.
- Babysitters for other Christmas parties, and possibly for shopping if the kiddos are little.
- Special meals, like Christmas eve dinner, Christmas breakfast, and Christmas dinner. That stuff really adds up fast!
- Travel, including gas, food, possibly hotels, airfare, and pet sitting costs.
In some ways, my family has been doing it the most expensive way possible: we stay home through Christmas day, hosting all the big events so that my kids can have Christmas at home, then we hit the road the day after Christmas. That tradition has been a little altered these last few, busy years, and it costs a lot less to not have all the stuff at your house. But I love having people come to my house!
If you are a super-organized person, you've been putting aside a little money each month to pay for all this Christmas madness. For the rest of us, there is still time. Make a list of your expenses, then figure out how you can shave a little bit of money off of each category. This might be the right time to cash in your change jar, trade in your credit card rewards points, or offer to work a few extra hours (if you get overtime!) The most important part is making sure that you don't charge it all and figure it out in January – that is not a fun feeling!
I was inspired to write this post after reading How To Set Your Christmas Budget by Craig at Christian PF. This article only deals with presents, and that's why I shared my overall list. Happy budgeting makes for happy holidays!