The Holiday Budget Blues

Posted December 17, 2011

It’s the holidays, and along with spiced eggnog, Christmas carols and family gatherings, there are also some not so cheerful side effects that come with the season.  Like super-dry pine needles that fall off the Christmas tree and get all over the fricking place.  Or the guy that gets carried away at the office holiday party and tells everyone how he really feels.  Or fighting over parking spaces at the mall.

We’re talking fist fights.

Another negative by-product of the holiday season is the blown-up budget.  As careful as we can be with our money throughout the year, it always comes to a head around the holidays.  Between shopping for gifts for families and friends, the hostess gift or bottles of bubbly brought to holiday parties, and year-end charity parties (and donations!) it’s tough to stay on a budget.  And let’s not even talk about what it takes to throw your own holiday party, from the food to the drinks to the hot party threads!

Luckily with a little thoughtful planning you can make it through the holidays without blowing up the bank account.  Here are some tips:

Create a separate holiday budget.  Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking you can magically stay on budget without factoring in the extra holiday expenses.  Figure out how many gifts you must buy, the parties and the one cute holiday outfit, and put it down in writing.

Instead of buying a gift for every family member, pick out Secret Santas and buy one gift for that special someone.  In my family we pick a Secret Santa among the adults and then we all buy gifts for the kids. Or in my case, everyone gets a gift card.  It may seem thoughless but gift cards can mean Christmas in July–literally!

If you must look cute at the holiday party, buy one new sparkly sexy top or amazing shoes to pair with black leggings or skinny jeans already in your closet.  The more glitter and cleavage you show, the more people don’t notice the faded H&M leggings you’re sporting.

Just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t throw your signature holiday party.  I always say the more imagination you throw into planning the party, the less money you need to spend.  Find a theme for your holiday party, like one of these:

-Holiday wine and cheese–You provide the cheese and crackers and tasty treats and your guests bring their favorite bottle of wine.

-White Trash Christmas–You serve the food we loved as kids but probably shouldn’t have eaten.  Think Twinkies, Rice Crispie Treats, Velveeta and salsa dip, cheese spread on Ritz crackers, pigs in a blanket, and Vienna Sausage bites with mustard. Take some notes, Rachel Ray!

-Cookie Exchange–Your friends bring their already-baked holiday cookies and a tin and exchange cookies with other guests.  The host can make a simple dish, like chili or goulash, mulled wine and a salad.  It’s social, can be held in the afternoon or early evening and after enough mulled wine, no one will care who brought the box of Entemmans’s.

Now is the time to make your year-end charitable donations and receive a tax deduction.  This is the time of year when we get hit up by all kinds of charities for last-minute donations.  With the economy in poor shape and grants hard to come by, it seems that charitable orgnaizations are really beefing up their fundraising techniques.  I think they’re even showing the commerical for the ASPCA more than usual because I can’t get that weepy “In the arms of the angel…” song out of my head!

If you are able to give–even $20–then do so but take the right planning steps.  First think about how much you can contribute this year, and then consider the charitable organizations you want to support.  Don’t forget to add the contribution amount to your budget and make sure you get a receipt or letter from the organization.

Happy Holidays!

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One response

  1. Thank you for this gentle reminder about budgeting during the holidays. I like the Secret Santa family idea. With so many siblings and with us getting older, it seems that a gift falls in comparison with quality time. I will try and employ this next year!

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