Planning Ahead: Christmas 2010

by Marcy on January 19, 2010 · 11 comments

The holidays are officially over for yet another year, and for many Americans, the credit card bills are rolling in. And while I would never profess to be perfect when it comes to managing our family finances (trust me, I am not!) one of the best gifts that I give myself each year is a Christmas budget. (See my post from last year here).

I keep a simple spreadsheet each year that includes:

  • A list of specific people and gift exchange gifts that I typically buy, with an anticipated dollar amount
  • My anticipated Christmas card & postage expenses
  • An estimate of how much I will spend on baking and/or extra food expenses

I update this spreadsheet periodically with gift ideas, actual expenses and any gifts that I have already purchased.

For many folks the thought of setting aside money for Christmas (or any type of savings!) can be daunting – but it doesn’t have to be – once you figure out a solution that works best for you.

When it comes to saving money for Christmas, vacations, college or an emergency fund, here are a few things that have worked for us:

  • My husband and I tend to spend every last cent that is in our checking account. I figured this out early in our marriage – and that is why very little of my husband’s pay check ever sees our checking account. We have a majority of my husband’s pay routed to various savings accounts – including the money that we owe for bills each month. I view this as “forced” discipline which works great for us.
  • Collecting loose change in a jar. Really! We have saved anywhere from $200-300/yr in doing this – and it is painless.
  • Selling new or gently used items that you no longer need on Craigslist (or eBay). The money that you can earn doing this obviously depends on the items that you are trying to sell – but at times I have had decent success clearing out clutter and earning a little bit of extra cash in the process.
  • Finding a reputable Market Research Company in your area and take part in paid focus group studies (To my Central OH readers, I like Columbus Research Connection). While these studies can be hit or miss, I have earned upwards of $200-400/yr doing this.

It is also important – no matter what your budget or ability to save – to focus on what is truly important during the holidays. For me, I would rather buy my kids less toys for Christmas during a “lean” year than to buy things that I can’t afford. Teaching my children how to be financially responsible is something that they will hopefully remember (and appreciate!) long after the last of their plastic toys are given or packed away. Or so I can hope. :-)

What about you? Do you set aside money each year for holiday expenses, and if so, what works best for you?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Proverbswife January 19, 2010 at 9:19 AM

I shared a similar list here. It highlights the things I do to offset gift giving.
.-= The Proverbswife´s last blog ..T.G.I. Friday Meal Rewards Program =-.

2 resilientheart January 19, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Thank you for this post, it’s so good to have ideas about planning ahead for Christmas, enjoy the season and not fret about debt.

My best friend showed me years ago her method was simply to save 10% per month, so by the end of the year, everything was already in place for taking care of her very large family.

Happy to have found the link for this on

Blessings, Love & Peace,

3 Kathy January 19, 2010 at 12:16 PM

I have three boys and their birthdays are spread out (March, June and October…lucky for us!) so we put $100 a month into a Holiday savings account. That is what we use for birthdays, Easter, halloween etc. Plus I try and buy great things throughout the year at great prices so that money can stretch pretty far (like getting $800 worth of toys at Target last week for $200…now I am ready for Easter, Valentines, March and June birthday except for any specific special items they might ask for…plus a few things for birthday party gifts). At Christmas we end up a little out of pocket, but not nearly as much.

4 Kristine January 19, 2010 at 1:36 PM

We withdraw a set amount of cash once a month, by the time Christmas rolls around, it’s paid for. I use a credit card for purchases (to get rewards) and pay it all off before the end of the billing cycle to avoid finance charges. This was our third year of doing it this way, and what a relief to know the money was there, even though I lost my job just before Thanksgiving. Our holiday didn’t really change at all.

5 Tiffany January 19, 2010 at 8:55 PM

I don’t really set aside money for christmas. I tend to look for items year round that I can find really cheap. My aunt loves Isotoner slippers which are usually $22.00. I was able to find a pair on clearance after christmas so I have them saved for next xmas! I have a bag in my closet of gifts that I have bought that didnt cost me much.
.-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Get two 2-Liter Pepsi’s for $0.75 each! =-.

6 Arica Reeves January 19, 2010 at 9:55 PM

I work 2 jobs, one is on call. I put $50 every 2 weeks into a Christmas only savings account. The money is taken from my paycheck before I even see it, so therefore, I don’t even miss it. This gives me over $1,000 a year to spend on Christmas or help pay bills (because I buy all year round when something is on sale and I can get it for a good deal). This takes the stress out of shopping for the holidays.

7 Emily January 20, 2010 at 10:52 AM

What exactly is Columbus Research Connection? I went to the website but couldn’t exactly figure out what it is.


8 Marcy January 21, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Emily – Columbus Research Connection facilitates Market Research/Focus Group studies for companies. For example, I have completed a diaper study through them (Huggies & Pampers pull ups) and a focus group/taste testing study for Wendy’s.

In both cases I was paid for my time. In the first, I also received free pull ups.

Their opportunities vary, but is easy extra cash if you end up qualifying for a study.

9 Emily January 21, 2010 at 1:42 PM

Thanks Marcy. I might check them out.

10 Sara January 21, 2010 at 3:29 PM

I’ve been keeping a “christmas budget” spreadsheet for years. I used to set up my budget for each person and expense (cards, postage, decorations, wrapping, etc) and the total around October and then track as I bought. Problem was, I wasn’t putting money aside ahead and would end up with holiday credit card hangover, even if I had kept a handle on the amount I spent. After this Christmas I set up next year’s budget, then divided the total amount into bi-weekly payments and set up a dedicated “christmas” account on ING (where we already have our savings account). Money is automatically moved into it every time I get paid, and come the beginning of December I can empty it out and actually pay cash!

While I was at it set up a similar account for “vacation” because I tend to do the same thing with vacations – go now and pay later. Time to change that!

11 Joy February 18, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Love this article!! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve linked it to the “This ‘n That Thursday” post on my blog.
Hope you have a great day!!!
~ Joy :)

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