How to Stick to Your Christmas Budget & Reduce Financial Stress

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How to Stick to Your Christmas Budget & Reduce Financial Stress


The holidays are supposed to be a time filled with love, happiness and deep connection. A common reality is that the holidays bring with them an incredible amount of stress due to everything that is happening, increased expenses, planning, family getting together, time off from work, etc.

Here are my top tips for reducing the financial stress that you feel at Christmas

Figure out Your Total Budget for Christmas Gifts

Figure out how much money you are going to spend before you leave the house. Because when you get there, you aren’t going to stick to your budget, because you haven’t created one.

Write down all of the people you need to buy for and how much is your limit for each of those people.

Make sure to also write down if you are doing stockings, how many people that is for and what you are going to do as a maximum for those stockings, because they add up so quickly. One stocking alone can easily cost $250+ if you aren’t intentional about what you are putting in them and what you aren’t putting in them.

Then when you total that number, I want you to really think about it.

  • Does it make sense to spend that much on Christmas gifts or is that way more than you can afford?

Most people plan on spending just under $1000 on Christmas this year (that is only on gifts, not including decorations, food, fuel, etc) and most people don’t have $1000 sitting around for them to spend, so I want you to ask yourself, is it that important that you overspend on Christmas, that you are in a bad place financially? Make sure you are being really intentional about how much you are budgeting to spend and then how much you do spend.

  • Keep a Running Total of Your Costs for Christmas Gifts in Your “Notes” App

I want you to write down the total in your notes app on your phone so it is with you when you go shopping and you don’t forget it at home, with the breakdown of how much you are spending on each person and then you can update it as you buy gifts, to make sure that you are going to come in just under your budget and no over it.

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Know What You Are Buying BEFORE You Enter the Store

Ask people what they want, then look for those items and see how much they are going to cost you, or even have them tell you where you can get it. Figure out what gifts you will be going to pick up gifts before you go to the store. Often when we don’t have a plan and we are just “looking around,” we spend a lot more time shopping and there is a much greater chance that we are going to buy something and then we might find later, the perfect gift after we have already bought them something.

Watch Out for the Trap of the “Perfect” Gift

When you see gifts that you think, this will be perfect for them, make sure you don’t justify overspending because something is “perfect,” for that person. I know that often we just love giving gifts and we want to see others happy and that it actually gives us a sense of joy when we give something, especially something that we really think someone will love. But what I want you to think about, is how do you think that person would feel, if they knew, the position that buying that gift or spending on gifts because you already bought something for them, then the “perfect” gift popped up so you bought it too, that it put you in a bad place financially. That you had to go into credit card debt to buy it, that you are worried about being able to afford gifts for other people, that you are going to worry about paying your other gifts, that you are going to spend your time at Christmas just worrying about when your credit card statement comes in after Christmas and checking your bank account to see what those number read. I bet that they wouldn’t feel very good about that, they would feel horrible that your “perfect” gift as amazing as it was, put you in that position.

Figure Out How Much You Have Already Spent

I used to be the type of person who had all of my Christmas shopping done by September. I love getting my Christmas shopping done early, but one of the things that I have noticed is that when you do this, you might find something for that person after you are done shopping and just pick it up because it doesn’t seem like a big deal. This can really add up without you really even noticing it.

So if you’ve already bought some gifts, I want you to add up your receipts, look on your online banking or your credit card statement and see how much you have already spent. I want you to have the awareness of how much you’ve already spent, so it helps you to not blow your budget completely. If it’s been crazy and you are feeling really uncomfortable looking at those numbers, I give you full permission to go and return some of those gifts. There is nothing wrong with that. It is actually incredibly empowering, you taking back control of your money.

Click here to download my Realistic Budget template!



Lower Your Actual Gift Costs by Using these Methods

  • Instead of buying for everyone, talk to your family and pull names and each just buy one gift and exchange them.
  • You can give homemade gifts, just go on Pinterest, look for cool gift ideas and take half a Saturday and you can make something.

Know How to Navigate the Stores to Reduce These Sneaky Marketing Methods

  • Don’t purchase items that are on your way out of the store, you likely weren’t going to grab them before, they probably weren’t on your list and they probably aren’t what someone really wants, but they are how retailers get you and those “little” things add up quickly. Just think, if you are over on the budget of each of your Christmas gifts even by just a little and then you buy these items while you are waiting in line, all of that adds up to a couple hundred dollars over your Christmas budget.

Using Cash Instead of Credit will Help You to Stick Within Your Christmas Budget

  • If you are worried about overspending, take just your debit card in or cash and NOT your credit card.
  • When we pay with our credit card at Christmas, it usually isn’t for the convenience factor, it is because we can’t afford what we are buying.
  • Please do yourself a favor and if you can’t afford something, spend less, your family won’t be disappointed in you, you are going to feel so much pain and they don’t want that for you. Please use your debit card or cash. I don’t want one time of year, to completely throw off your financial and other life goals.

Remember What Christmas is Actually About When Your Shopping

Christmas is about spending time with the people that we love versus what we are giving or receiving as gifts. And I’m not just saying this, I’ve spent more than a couple of Christmas’s in the hospital with family members who were going into surgery or coming out of surgery and the only thing that mattered at all, was if that person was there with us and that they were healthy and smiling.

Another reason why I want you to be really mindful about budgeting and spending about Christmas gifts is because that’s not the only part about Christmas that makes it financially stressful. There is more traveling and that is an increased cost to add into your budget, there is the increased cost of groceries and I know you have chocolates and other goodies too. So, don’t blow your entire budget and then some on gifts, because you still have travel and groceries to think about. Also, you are probably working less around Christmas so your pay is probably less than normal.

Let me know if these strategies were helpful to you and which ones you are going to try or if you have other strategies that help you to stay within your Christmas budget!

Want to find out where you really stand financially? Click “Cash Flow Confidence” Program.


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Click here to download my Realistic Budget template!



I am very active on Instagram, follow me here for more financial tips & tricks: (@mandyythomas)


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