Christmas Shopping on a Budget

Setting up a Christmas shopping budget and sticking to it during the holidays can prevent a nasty surprise when you get December's credit card bill.

When putting together a budget, a list simply outlining how much you intend to spend on friends or family members or a list of which gifts you would like to purchase is not enough. To use a Christmas budget to its fullest potential, you should also set a deadline for buying all your gifts, decorations and other holiday items. The right timing can enable you to do your Christmas shopping without having to resort to using credit cards or putting off other important bills just so that you have enough money to buy what you need at the last minute.

Once you have established a list of who you will buy Christmas gifts for, set a price limit for each individual. This approach for developing a Christmas budget is often better than first deciding on a gift. Associating a set dollar amount with each of your intended gift recipients is likely to reduce your chances of overspending.

Be sure to examine your relationship with the gift recipient closely. For example, you are more likely to spend more money on your children, parents or romantic partner. You will naturally want to give them the best you can afford, but be as realistic as you can in your budget. Prioritize gifts that truly reflect the recipient's interests and tastes. In many cases, a person would appreciate personalized Christmas gifts that suit his or her style instead of something that is merely expensive. If you do decide to go with a personalized or homemade gift, be sure to estimate its cost and include it in your budget.

Then move on and list the items and decorations you need. Will you need to buy a fresh Christmas tree? Wrapping paper? Food for the holiday meal? Postage? Airplane tickets to visit family? All of these items should go into your budget.

After listing how much you intend to spend on each recipient and on everything else related to Christmas, you can develop an estimated total. This total is how much you will need to spend for the entire Christmas season. The beauty of creating a Christmas budget well in advance of the holiday is that you can start making your purchases as soon as possible. This is likely to reduce your chances of overspending, as well as spending money that you do not have.

Even with a detailed Christmas budget, is important to always be on the lookout for additional ways to save money. Coming in under your Christmas budget enables you to make additional purchases or start saving money for the following year. The best way to save money is to look for the best sales. These sales most commonly occur on the popular shopping day of Black Friday, which falls on the day after Thanksgiving.

While it can save you money to shop on Black Friday, it might be wise to get an even bigger head start on your holiday shopping. Shopping in advance will reduce stress because you won't worry about getting presents at the last minute, and you can sleep in the day after Thanksgiving. Sales happen around the year, and you don't have to get up early on Black Friday to get a deal. You can check newspaper inserts on a weekly basis, comparison-shop on the Web or sign up online to receive e-mail newsletters and sales announcements from your favorite stores.

You can also save for Christmas little by little by depositing a small amount of money into a savings account every pay period. You'll be surprised at how quickly these deposits can add up, and you won't be in a rush to find money when the holidays arrive.

As for the urge to splurge when shopping, be sure to keep your written Christmas budget with you at all times or at least in your thoughts. For many, this serves as an important reminder that overspending is not required. While you shop, try not to use your credit card, and stick with cash or your debit card. If you use a credit card, you might be tempted to put off payments, and the longer you wait, the longer it will take to pay off your debt.

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