Santa's Not Coming: How to Budget for Christmas Today

It's 85 days until Black Friday, not that we're counting or anything. While this may be the biggest shopping day of the year, especially in anticipation of the holiday season, many choose to take advantage of the summer sales and start getting ready for the holiday season now. Four months may seem like a long time, but before you know it you're taking down your Halloween decorations and starting to panic about how you haven't exactly been saving enough for holiday shopping. Christmas is an expensive and busy season and the more time you have to plan, the better. Here are some tips on how to be ready for this Christmas season early:

  • Make a gift list now. Who do you need to buy gifts for and what is the budget for each person? Try and figure out as much of this as you can now and always budget for an extra person you either forgot or that unexpectedly gets you a gift and you have to reciprocate. Add the numbers up and that's the amount you should spend. Sticking to a budget is tough, but will pay off in the end.
  • Start a "Santa Savings account." Some banks actually have this option, or you can "create" your own. Put aside $10-20 each week in a savings account and you could save up to $348 by Christmas! This can easily be done by packing your work lunch a couple days per week or skipping your morning coffee routine. If your morning coffee costs $3.10 and you get it three times per week, you could save $446.40 by December just by skipping it! This Barclays account has a good interest rate and no fees or minimums!

    How to budget for vacation.

    Budget early for a winter getaway and you could be here come February!

  • Always be looking for deals: If you start keeping your eyes out now, shopping for everyone should be easy. Do you want to go on vacation with your spouse as a gift? Start looking now. We get excited about travel deals when we spot them, so keep an eye on BradsDeals for the best of the best. Also get more value for your money by looking for gift cards for stores you shop at Plastic Jungle or Cardpool.com. If you were going to buy your sister a present from Gap anyway, you could likely find a $50 gift card for $40 or another similar offer.
  • Start shopping now. Now is a great time to scour end of summer sales, especially Labor Day sales. Lots of merchandise, especially past season styles on winter coats, can be found at a deep discount.How to Budget for Christmas Now
  • DIY. If you plan ahead and are a moderately crafty person, save money by making gifts for friends and family. Do you knit? Take great photos? Make jewelry? Bake fantastic cookies? The possibilities are endless, especially with Pinterest! Our resident knitter, BradsDealer Becky Lehmann, told us, "If you're thinking of knitting something for a Christmas gift, unless it's a small project, you'll want to cast on immediately. You really don't want to be in a rush to finish your homemade gifts when the holidays are already going full speed. And nothing is worse than wrapping up a half-done project with promises to finish it later."
  • Consider Secret Santa. Do you have four siblings, three of whom are married and have children? Maybe that's just me, but we decided years ago that Christmas had gotten out of hand. Secret Santa is a great way to buy one great gift for the person you end up with and there's the added mystery of who has who. Start planting the idea now and maybe even pick names early for those who like lots of time to plan. If you don't like Secret Santa, then White Elephant is a great alternative (and is perfect for large groups of friends or work parties). Everyone buys a gift within the given budget and at a party individuals choose gifts from the pile in a designated order. You are able to "steal" gifts from others up to two times so you never know what you'll end up with!
  • Cash in your rewards points. Have you been racking up your credit card rewards points like a good consumer? Now, or closer to Christmas, may be the time to take advantage of those. I just logged on to see how many points I'd accumulated on my Chase Freedom card, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount! And guess what? It's all going in my "Santa Savings" account.
  • Cash in your change. Do you have a change jar or piggy bank? There's no better time than now to see how much that precious hog holds. Make sure to cash in at a bank that doesn't charge a fee for doing so, or head to your local Coinstar machine and get an Amazon gift card for you money. Coinstar takes a portion of your change (9.8%) if you get cash.

How do you budget for the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below!

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Photo Credits: Moyan Brenn & Aubrey

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