Published 29 Oct 2023

Holidays Budget. Part 1: Planning for Gifts and Trips

As the holidays approach, we'll explore essential strategies to help you enjoy the season without breaking the bank.
5 min read

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The holiday season, with all its magic and joyful atmosphere, is what many of us are looking forward to. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas come in a row and are undoubtedly very beloved and cherished. You might be planning how to spend your winter break or what you want your holidays to be like. But what you should also pay attention to and be sure to prepare is your holiday budget. In this blog post, we will share a few budgeting tips for you that will help you be adequately prepared and not break the bank.

Assess Your Financial Situation

What is important to do first before you even start planning your budget for the holiday season is to have a closer look at your finances and opportunities. You might have some savings available or some financial obligations that really limit your budget. Anyway, you should calculate how much you can spend on holidays to be able to cover other necessary costs.

Review your income and expenses to be able to understand where you can cut corners and save money. You may have to limit the coffee intake at the local coffee shop. It can save you some money, though it will take some self-discipline.

Calculate how much you can afford to spend on the gifts, and thus, you will understand the possible category of presents that you will be buying. Don’t be ashamed of inexpensive presents as they are still valuable to the people you are giving them to.

Set Realistic Goals

If you are planning on making some extra money to add to your holiday budget, you still need to be realistic with your expectations. The same applies if you are going to limit your expenses to save more. Be realistic, as being extra about your finances is never good. Don’t try to plan some big sums, especially if your average budget is much lower. Don’t overextend yourself, and pay attention to the limitations that you set for yourself.

Setting goals is crucial, but what is also important is being realistic about them. You surely can set a goal to travel all winter break or buy expensive presents. But what’s the point if you are not going to achieve these goals because you can’t afford it?

Create a Gift List

After you take a look at your finances and set your goals, you can determine how much money you can put aside for gifts or travel expenses and be comfortable with the final sum. Having such a designated money limit can help you a lot with gift shopping.

Now, you should search for gifts that will fit your budget. Search online and offline to find the best deals. You should also do it as early as possible to avoid last-minute purchases, as they are usually the reason for not meeting your financial goal.

Think of the things that your family or friends will enjoy, like bath products, kitchen items, scented candles, holiday-themed items, warm blankets, or clothing items. Some of the items can be bought via Amazon, ordered ahead of the time when the prices for such items are low, for example, in the summer.

Explore Money-Saving Options

Sales, discounts, special offers, store club membership, coupons, cashback. All of these options are great and allow you to save money when buying various goods, such as holiday gifts. However, they usually take some time to be explored. You need to be patient about online surfing and comparing the prices; otherwise, you might want to use additional software, for example, apps that do that for you, and find the cheapest offers online.

Another option that you should take advantage of is your student ID. Some stores provide student discounts. If you are going to travel, you might find cheaper ticket options via websites that help you save money on flights with your student ID. For example, StudentUniverse or BookingBuddy. Some of them can really help you get an affordable ticket and stay within your budget limit.

Start Looking in Advance

As it was said earlier, buying gifts in advance when there is a sale or low season is a great option. But it can also be applied to tickets and accommodation options. Buy your tickets as early as possible when they become available. Be sure to check various dates instead of only one, as some weekdays are cheaper to fly than others. For example, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually pretty cheap. Another thing that you might not know about is the time of the day when you are surfing for the tickets. Yes, they can be cheaper at night.

Use Rewards and Points

Any saving option is fine when it comes to plane tickets. They can be too expensive but really needed, so saving money on them is what we all would like to do. If you use credit cards on a regular basis, chances are you have some points on your account that can be used to cover travel expenses. These rewards and points can come in handy when you want to save on airfare or hotel. There might be special terms and conditions for using this reward system, so be sure to check them in order to maximize the points you get.

Monitor Your Daily Expenses

The holiday season is often rather an expensive time of the year. People tend to have better moods and spend more even on everyday things like groceries, dining out, impulse purchases, charity, etc. If you know that you are likely to spend more and would like to avoid that, be sure to start writing your expenses down.

Pay attention to what you are buying and why. Spending more than usual is not a good thing when you have a limited budget and need to pull through the season until the next paycheck. Download an app to track your spending or write each purchase into a journal within a specific category like “Transportation,” “Groceries,” “Misc,” etc. Do that on a daily basis, as it will help you see when you extend the limit and go over the budget during the festive weeks.

Avoid Unplanned and Impulse Purchases

The worst thing for your budget that you can do when planning your holidays is to go shopping without a strict gift list that you preplanned. Impulse purchases, like a scarf on a sale or a cool new lamp, can really mess up your financial plan.

Be sure to have a strict plan of purchases when you go shopping for the holiday season. Buy only things that you have planned to or their alternatives. If you tend to buy a lot of unnecessary things, try online shopping or take a friend with you so that they can help you control yourself.

Plan for Emergency Expenses

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. The flight can be canceled, the car can break, and the work shift can be rescheduled. In this case, you might need to buy a new ticket, pay for car fixes, or change the travel dates, which means paying more than you planned.

That’s why we highly suggest you save a sum of money just in case – a sinking fund that you can take from when needed. It is a highly effective option for those who want to be financially stable and stress less, as well as create a save cushion that you can rely on. When you have such a savings account, you know for sure that you don’t need to worry about where to get money from when you are stuck in an airport, for example.

Wrapping Up

This part of our blog post about the holiday budget is dedicated to planning for and buying holiday travel tickets or gifts for your family and friends. We hope that you find these tips useful. Also, be sure to check part two of the blog post to learn more about the holiday budget and ways to make more cash for the season.

Karen Palmer Karen Palmer
I am an only child (and not spoiled, really) who spent twelve years in Catholic schools and seven more off-and-on years in college, but my education largely took place at the Cahuenga Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Decades later, not much has changed. I again live in L.A. and I still spend a lot of time at the library — if I had to choose between reading and eating, I’d be dead in a week.
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