Make a List and Check It Twice: Keeping Your Holiday Wish List on a Real Budget

November 27, 2018 | By Emma Frost

Think it’s still too early to start setting up your Christmas budget? If you want big savings and zero stress this holiday, it pays to plan early, in more ways than one!

You can still enjoy your holiday season while stashing away some money for some gifts under the tree – if you play your cards right!

Santa makes a list and checks it twice – shouldn’t you? Find out how a zero-based budget can help you make your wish list happen on a real-life budget.

What Does It Mean to Have a Zero-Based Budget?

“But what is a zero-based budget?” you may ask. The concept is simple: what goes in, minus what goes out, equals zero. That doesn’t mean you have to spend every last dollar, but it does mean that every dollar you earn needs a job to do.

Have you ever found yourself checking your bank account and thinking, “Where did all my money go?” When every dollar has a job to do, it’s a lot harder to find yourself there. Knowing how every dollar is spent will help keep your holiday spending in check.

How Do I Get Started?

The first step to keeping your Christmas spending on a budget is to make a budget in the first place. After all, if you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. Fortunately, you can get your perfect holiday budget started with only three easy steps:

1. Start with Your Monthly Income

Count all the money you have coming in. Anything from paychecks and side gigs to small-business and passive income – even money you make selling items online or points you cash out from moneymaking apps like Ibotta all amounts to money in the bank.

EveryDollar is another app that can help you make your budget goals. Grab a notebook and your budgeting app and start listing your income in all its forms. When it comes to making your holiday budget work for you, every dollar counts!

2. Write Down Your Monthly Expenses

Just because we’re focused on making our Christmas goals happen doesn’t mean we can afford to turn a blind eye to our day-to-day spending. Once you know exactly what you have coming in, it’s time to find out exactly what’s going out.

Make sure to include the essentials like food, rent, and utilities. But your monthly expenses don’t end there: include your phone bill, your cable bill, and everything in between. With your bases covered, you can make a real game plan for your monthly spending.

3. Write Down Your Other Expenses

We all know when Christmas is, so it’s no use pretending it caught you by surprise! That’s why saving (and spending) a little at a time is the best way to avoid these expenses hitting you all at once.

Stocking up on things like gift wrap and decorations after the holidays can also be an easy way to save tons on stuff you’ll need later anyway. A stitch in time saves nine.

Money kind of tight? Perhaps you have most of what you need already. And nothing quite beats improvisation when it comes to keeping your holiday budget in line.

Perhaps an affordable Christmas dinner, some homemade eggnog, handmade decorations, and a DIY-approach to your ugly sweater party aspirations will be just the ticket! Just make sure to keep tabs on your spending all year round – it’s sure to make for a very Merry Christmas!

4. Subtract Your Expenses from Your Income Until They Equal Zero

In a perfect world, this number would be zero, but there’s a learning curve, so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t balance the equation exactly the first time.

You may need to play with the numbers, but avoid spending on anything that you didn’t already plan for at all cost.

Limits only work if you hold yourself to them! The take-home message is, any money you “find” along the way should have something it’s actively doing to improve your life. With a little mindfulness and self-discipline, small changes can go a long way.

How to Budget for Christmas Shopping

Ah, presents: the source of most mirth and stress this time of year. They say it’s always better to give than to receive… that is, unless you blow your budget in the process!

But will making a Christmas Budget even work? Well, not with that attitude! Budgets can make or break you. No matter what your financial situation is, having a comprehensive and detailed budget is the best way to afford it.

Money can be stressful, but only if you let it be. It’s a tool to help us meet our financial goals, whatever they may be. You might think that budgeting means depriving yourself.

But it also means being careful with what you spend today so you can spend on what you really need tomorrow. Either you take control of your budget, or you’ll find it controlling you.

Perhaps an emergency expense has made the holidays a little less jolly. Don’t let a financial pitfall hold you backtitle loans are closer than you might think and there to get your budget on track.

Give yourself the time and tools you need to make your budgeting goals, use these easy tips, and have yourself merrier Christmas today!