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Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love buying gifts, decorating, giving extra to charities, and spending money on holiday activities. Even though I’m smart about it and save a little all year in a Christmas savings account, I always overspend.
It’s frustrating because it throws off my December budget and makes money tight in January, too.
This year, I’m committed to getting through the holiday season without going broke. Here’s what I’m going to do to help keep myself on track.
Set a limit on how much to spend on gifts.
I love making lists. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, dealing with a big project, or have a lot of moving parts in my day, I always make a list. And making a list can work to keep my Christmas spending in check, too.
This year, I’m writing down every person I plan to buy a gift for, as well as all of the extra expenses like Christmas cards, postage stamps, decorations.
And I’m setting a limit on how much I can spend on each thing.
For instance, I’m terrible about overspending on gifts at Christmas (and all year, really). I love to give nice gifts! But this year, I’m reminding myself that nice gifts don’t have to cost a fortune.
Don’t spend more than I have budgeted.
This is the hard part: sticking to the plan I made! You can use the cash envelope system if you want, but I do a lot of Christmas shopping online, and it’s too hard to keep track of.
So, I set up a spreadsheet to track how much I spend on everything I need for the holiday season. It looks like this:
I already want to go overbudget. But I’m not rich, and we’ve had a lot of unexpected expenses lately, so I’ll have to make do with what I can afford.
Look for ways to earn extra cash.
Since I’m self-employed, I have a lot of control over the work I do. I’ve already been reaching out to see if any of my clients (old and new!) have any extra writing that I can help them out with. The downside is that several of my clients slow way down during the holiday season, which means I need to find new ways to bring in extra money for Christmas.
Doing gigs on Fiverr can earn some quick cash, and online surveys are a great way to earn free gift cards.
Plus, I bet you have some things around your house that you could sell, and that’s a quick way to put cash in your pocket. Try your local Facebook resale groups to find a new home for things you don’t want any more like old Christmas decorations, books, clothing, kids’ toys, and more.
Get cash back for shopping online.
I always check for ways to earn cash back before I buy something online. My favorite way to earn money shopping online is with Rakuten, but you might know them as Ebates. The company changed its name in 2019, but you still get the same great deals.
You can buy almost anything online these days, and Rakuten offers 8% cash back from Ulta, up to 5% on Amazon, and 6% at Macy’s.
When you combine shopping with Rakuten with a cash back credit card, you can double-dip on each purchase and watch your cash back really add up.
My favorite cash back credit card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred – this is the card we used to get free roundtrip airfare for all three of us when we went to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando.
Create family memories without breaking the bank.
Who says you have to spend a fortune to create lasting holiday memories? This year, we’re going to have just as much fun (and maybe more!) by staying home and spending time together as a family.
Christmas cookies are a cheap and fun activity that the whole family can enjoy. And kids love sleepovers… we’re planning a Christmas sleepover where we get out our sleeping bags and set up “camp” in the living room. We’re going to watch our favorite holiday movies and eat popcorn beneath the light of the Christmas tree.
So, that’s my plan to survive the holidays without sacrificing my financial goals. Sometimes I get caught up in the over-commercialization of Christmas and end up spending more than I should.
But this year, I’m making a plan ahead of time to slow down and make my budget stretch further than it has before.
Amy Beardsley is a wife, mom to a teenager and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She’s always on the lookout for new ways to cut costs and increase income, without sacrificing comfort. She’s also a freelance writer who specializes in credit reporting, FinTech, and probate and estate planning topics. When Amy isn’t perfecting her budget spreadsheet, you can find her curled up with a good book or watching Marvel movies with her husband and daughter.