Preparing for the Holidays

I know, I know! It’s only October, and I’m already thinking about the Holidays!

If I’m not going to break my budget, I HAVE to start thinking about the Holidays now. Between food for gathering, Christmas gifts, and a few birthdays between November and January, it ends up being a pretty expensive time of year for me! There isn’t a lot of extra room in my budget, so I have to make a plan for how much, and where, the money is going to come from.

Last year I set aside $800 for Holiday spending. This year, I’m cutting back to $700. I keep going back and forth on how much to budget. I’m really, really bad at overspending when it comes to gifts. I’m just one of those people who always equates gifts with showing someone how much I care. I’ve been trying to work really hard on rethinking how I spend on gifts; After all, it isn’t how much I spend that matters. At 36 years old (almost 37!) this is a lesson I’m still trying to learn. By setting my budget lower this year, I’m hoping to force myself into really thinking about how I’m spending my money. I’m also hoping to force myself into thinking ahead, instead of doing the usual last-minute shopping, which inevitably leads to expensive impulse buys.

Luckily, I already have $600 of my $700 budget saved. Some of that came from extra money I had left in my weekly spending. Some from reimbursements I got. A big chunk came out of my expenses account; Since Bryan is back to paying half the rent, there’s an “extra” $350 a month that I’d been setting aside. In the next week I should have the full $700. Then I’ll switch to putting my extra money towards the car loan.

Here’s a rundown of the expenses I have coming up:

  • Birthdays: Mom, sister, nephew, and mine
  • Birth of a new nephew
  • Food for Thanksgiving Dinner
  • Food for Christmas Dinner
  • Christmas Gifts
    • 1 Grandparent
    • 2 Parents
    • 1 Partner
    • 3 Siblings and 1 In-Law
    • 3 Nephews
    • 3 (+) Co-Workers

So, how do I plan to keep costs down?

I’m talking to my siblings about doing a birthday dinner to celebrate my sister and my birthdays together. No gifts, and everyone pays for their own meal. My birthday is at the beginning of November, and my sister’s is at the end of November. Combining them into one celebration saves everyone money. Hey, my Mom ALWAYS threw us a combined party as kids! I don’t see why we haven’t continued that tradition as adults! That just leaves a birthday gift for my Mom and nephew.

My company usually gives us each a gift certificate to a grocery store for Thanksgiving. It’s more than enough to cover any money I spend on food items for Thanksgiving Dinner (we all bring a couple of dishes), and probably enough to cover part of Christmas Dinner as well. I’m trying to plan out what I’m bringing in advance, so I don’t do my usual last-minute grocery store panic.

The last few years my siblings and I have put a cap on gift spending for each other. I know a lot of families stop giving gifts to each other as adults; We haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but we have limited things to about $20 each. It makes gift giving a little more affordable for everyone.

With my nephews, I’m trying to buy experiences, rather than gifts. They get so many gifts that a lot of things are soon forgotten. They’re also at an age where their tastes are very particular, and wants tend to be pricey! The last 3-4 years I’ve gotten them a gift certificate to Great Wolf Lodge. It’s been a huge hit! But Great Wolf keeps raising their prices, and it’s gotten to the point that a one night stay costs more money than I’m willing to shell out for a Christmas gift. My sister isn’t exactly in the position to pay for the difference, so I let her know last year that the tradition would be coming to an end. I’m thinking this year of maybe buying a one year pass to the Zoo or Children’s Museum. It’s something they could enjoy multiple times throughout the year, and would be easier on my sister with the new baby. A family pass for either one is right around $150, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which they’d get more use out of. I usually get each boy a small, inexpensive ($5-10) gift to open on Christmas morning.

The co-workers I typically buy for each year are all female, so I’m trying to combine rewards and special offers to cover those gifts this year. I’m a rewards member at The Body Shop, and recently earned a $15 reward. I should get another $10 reward for my birthday. I plan to combine the rewards to purchase small jars of their body butter to use as gifts. I usually give each person a small gift and a $5 gift card to Starbucks. I’m using Swagbucks, and taking as many surveys as possible, to try to get those gift cards for free. I’m at 1,018 points right now, which buys me 2 of the $5 gift cards. This week I’ve started using my lunch break everyday to complete some surveys and earn other Swagbucks points. I should definitely be able to cover all the gift cards for work. If I try really hard, I may be able to earn even more gift cards, which I’d use towards family gifts.

The last thing on my list is a gift for the new baby. My plan is to wait until right around his birth, to see what my sister still needs. I want to buy her one big gift, and make sure it’s something she’ll get a lot of use out of. Her late fiance’s family has been sending her a lot of gifts from out-of-town, so there aren’t too many things she has left that she really needs. The baby is due early December, but she’s having a lot of issues with pre-term labor, so he’ll likely be early. I should have a better idea of what I’ll be buying her in the next month, and then will start working on bargain shopping.

It isn’t a perfect plan, but hey, it’s still early in the season! And this is the first year I’m attempting to really cut costs, instead of just sticking to a budget. I consider this a learning year; Hopefully I’ll learn some important lessons, and be able to do even better next year! I definitely think I’ll start sooner next year on the Swagbucks! I don’t know why I didn’t put more effort into earning points earlier this year.

Any suggestions on how to save during the Holidays? What are you doing to keep Holiday costs down?

  • Cindy W.


  1. Great job on your upcoming gift planning! You’ve got a well thought out and manageable approach.
    It sure helps to think things out before everything starts happening.


    1. I’m hopeful that having a plan will help me keep things under control. I just have to keep reminding myself to stick to the plan!

  2. […] October, I posted about how I was saving money and preparing for the Holidays. Of course, that post was made before my nephew was stillborn and my Grandma passed away, when I […]

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