11 Things to Include in Your Holiday Budget Planning

Stuffed Christmas stockings over the fireplace. Getty Images
Stuffed Christmas stockings over the fireplace. Getty Images

Content courtesy of USAA.

It's Christmas time! Do you have sugar plums dancing in your head or are you like me and the only thing dancing in your head is the list with items needing their "check"? Can't go to sleep to wait for Santa because of the sleigh bells ringing, I mean, cash registers dinging large holes in my holiday budget plan!

We make a budget every year, and inevitably something comes up that throws my beautiful red sleigh into a frosty tailspin and sometimes so completely off course even Rudolph himself can't get the darn thing back on track. Usually it's school- or friend-related and brought to my attention last-minute by my little elves, or work-related and brought to me by Papa elf (my husband).

This year, though, will be different. I am planning on miscellaneous and we shall see if maybe just one night, Christmas Eve, when it's all said and done, little magical gold-dusted hoofprints might "stamp" their seal of approval on my holiday budget. Am I up to the task? Are you?

Here are 11 things to consider for your holiday budget:

1. Gifts – This includes a spending limit set for each person on the list: each child, each adult family member, gifts from Santa, coworkers/neighbors/teachers/friends, and admittedly we include our pets.

2. Stocking Stuffers – My Grandma started this tradition way back when and I won't let it die. This micro-budget includes small stocking stuffers for our immediate family.

3. Christmas Cards – This is something my husband completely does not believe in, but I am one to argue that point. Maybe I'm just nosy, but we have so many military friends all over the world and I love to see what everyone is up to. We send a picture card each year, so we include the cost of the cards plus postage.

4. Decorations – We have all of our major things, but we do add a budget for one indoor/outdoor holiday décor item per year, any Christmas light maintenance and a yearly ornament.

5. Christmas Eve Pajamas – Also a Grandma tradition, this micro-budget includes a spending limit for pajamas for the four of us.

6. Entertainment – We budget a new Christmas music CD every year and sometimes a game to play on Christmas Eve. Additionally, depending on the timing and location, we may have a holiday activity that we do or we also might include a holiday party for friends and unit members in this micro-budget.

7. Travel – We are a military family, so you know travel has to be included. Sometimes it's just gas and food/snacks, and other times it might be flights or hotel nights along the route, just depends on where we are located at the time.

8. Cookies – I am the family baker for two families, so baking supplies must be budgeted.

9. Food and Beverages – When the holiday celebration lands at our home, we must include a micro-budget for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, as well as meals and drinks for family during their stay.

10. Wrapping Supplies – We take measures to try to minimize this cost by wrapping in fun ways (like in comic strips or butcher block paper), but it still needs to be counted.

11. Miscellaneous – This year, we are including a stipend amount for those things that fall over budget as a buffer. It's not huge, but it is there if we need it.

The important part that I have learned after years of doing a holiday budget is that you must know your habits, your limits, and really look at what you wish for your holiday to be. For some things like tradition, it might really be what they want; sometimes it's all about the presents. Some years the budget might be tighter and things have to go that other years may have been an easy spend. Be honest and transparent with where you are and what you can spend. Happy holidays!

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