Just because it’s a little too soon to put up the Christmas tree or break out the stockings and Holiday decor, doesn’t mean it’s too soon to create your Christmas gift budget. If you start saving now, it will help you avoid debt while you're filled with holiday cheer.
Holiday spending is a common way for people to land themselves in debt and financial stress. Some find themselves in trouble by rationalizing big spending and incurring debt during the holidays. This leads to paying for holiday spending well into the next year. Effective planning could mean enjoying the holiday season without the financial burdens. "Christmas is not an emergency; it doesn’t sneak up on you," says Dave Ramsey, "Christmas is always in December, they don’t move it".  Make a goal to have a debt free Christmas by showing discipline and setting guidelines for yourself.
Christmas on a Budget
Here are some steps to create and manage your budget:
- Create a list of people to buy presents for: spouse, children, relatives, friends and coworkers. It's easy to get carried away with gift giving so keep your list short - include only those people you are closest to.
- Put together a realistic spending figure for your Christmas gift budget. Once you have your spending amount, spread it out among your list by putting a dollar figure next to the individual or family's name on your list.
- Use the Christmas Budget worksheet to help you record the figures and stay on track. It allows you to keep track of Christmas gifts as well as other holiday items (Christmas cards, decorations, etc.). Whenever you makes changes, check the totals to make sure you're still within your budget.
- Decide how to budget and save your holiday money. You may be able to set the money aside in a savings account or use an envelope system (put cash in an envelope). Experienced budgeteers usually include a special Christmas or Holiday savings category in their monthly budget.
- Only use cash, debit card or checks for all your purchases. This will help you to avoid overspending and incurring debt.
- Don’t wait for the last minute to buy all your items. Many people like to wait until the last month, weeks or even days to do their shopping, but you don’t have to. If you are planning ahead, you can purchase items when they are on sale. Record your purchases along the way so you know exactly what amount you have left to work with.
- Avoid extra expenses that you can live without.
- Don’t panic if you spend a little more on something than planned. The idea is to stay close to your figure and reduce your overall expenditures. If you spend a little more on an item, try finding a better deal on the next item on your list.
- You may need to make adjustments to your budget. If you do, make sure to keep an eye on the totals. If you add rows to the Christmas budget spreadsheet, verify the sub-total formulas so that you aren't spending more than you think you are.
- Bookmark the Christmas Budget spreadsheet page to use for next year. You can start saving even earlier next year!
And last, but certainly not least, enjoy the Holiday season. This is a special time of year. Don’t let stressing or spending overshadow the important things.
-  Ramsey, Dave. The Total Money Makeover. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc. 2009, 104