Your Two-Month Holiday Budgeting Guide

By Jackie Lam
October 17, 2018

Sure, you should have started saving for the holidays back in January. But lo and behold, it’s now October and you haven’t even started.

Before you freak out and push the panic button, there’s still time to bulk up your savings for those upcoming holiday expenses. Here’s how you can save for the holidays in eight weeks or less:

Tally Up Your Expenses 

Because the holidays can be so expensive, you need a plan of attack. To start, tally up all your anticipated costs, and how much you will roughly spend. This may include gifts, gift wrap, cards, decorations, holiday gatherings, travel expenses, pet sitting costs while traveling, holiday attire, and other festivities and events you may splurge on.

Don’t forget to factor in those often-forgotten-about expenses, such as a higher electricity bill to power up your holiday lights, hiring a babysitter while you’re on shopping runs and at parties, and shipping for gifts. Also, leave some wiggle room for buying stuff for yourself (yes, we all do it).

Commit to a Savings Plan

Now that you know how much you’ll need to get through the holidays, drum up a savings plan—and stick to it. So if $1,000 is your goal, turn on Automatic Savings in you Chime account before the holidays. Then aim to save $125 a week. If you’re aiming to save $750, then sock away $94 a week. If you want to accumulate $500 in your savings, then auto-transfer $62.50 a week. You get the point.

Remember: The best way to save is when you do it on auto-pilot. Otherwise, saving money can be challenging, especially when you’re tempted to spend.

Review Your Holiday Budget

Carefully scour over your holiday budget to see where you can cut back. For instance, try to avoid budget busters that can lead to holiday debt hangover. For instance:

  • Book your travel early to get the best deals
  • Buy fewer gifts
  • Think twice about going to last-minute holiday shindigs
  • Opt for an inexpensive holiday dress
  • Shop in your closet for an outfit you’ve worn from years past
  • Repurpose newspaper or used gift wrap to come up with creative ways to wrap presents
  • Put a seasonal hold on Internet and cable while you’re traveling
  • Ask a neighbor or nearby friend to pet sit, and offer to do the same in exchange

Review Your Regular Budget

Slashing expenses doesn’t have to stop with your holiday budget. See if you can cut back on both necessities (groceries, transportation) and non-necessities (going out with friends, excessive clothes shopping, etc).

Some ways to slash your regular budget:

  • Carpool once a week
  • Brown bag it once a week
  • Skip your weekly latte fix a few times a week
  • Resort to buying limited mix and match pieces of clothing, and set a limit
  • Order half the number of drinks you normally consume during happy hour
  • Turn off the heat while you’re at work

Remember: Cutting back and being frugal just means you’re being resourceful. And being resourceful can be fun while helping you save money.

Ramp Up the Side Hustles

This is where you hustle. Literally. Tutor, rake leaves, sell stuff on OfferUp, do online surveys, work as a paid audience member, pet sit—whatever it takes. Do the math to figure out how much money you’ll need to earn to hit your holiday goal.

A general rule of thumb: Whatever money you earn from side hustles, just make sure it goes toward your holiday savings account. Otherwise the money you worked so hard to earn may end up being wasted on frivolous things.

Save Up “Extra” Cash

If you expect some “extra” cash, perhaps birthday money from your parents, a small bonus from work, or anything else, commit to squirrel at least part of it away so you can hit your holiday budget goals.

Budget for Debt

Nobody wants debt, and while it’s not ideal, it’s better to plan for debt rather than be blindsided by it.

If you’ve done all you can to save and still suspect you may have to tap into credit, sit down and figure out which credit card you’ll need to use for holiday-related expenses. Rather than use multiple credit cards, pick just one. This way it will be easier to keep track of your progress as you’re paying it off.

Backing up a bit, you can first estimate how much you think you may spend on your credit card. From there, come up with a plan to pay it off as quickly as you can. Set notifications on your debit card apps, hunker down on your spending, and make additional payments if you can.

Bust Holiday Debt Hangover

As you can see, it you haven’t started saving yet, it’s not too late. By drumming up a plan of action that you can stick to for the next eight weeks, you’ll be well on your way to a debt-free holiday season. And that’s something to celebrate!

Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based financial writer whose clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD.

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