6 Budget Questions for a Stress-Free Holiday
During childhood, the holiday season held so much magic, but one mystery remained: Why did so many adults seem stressed?
As the years went by, we discovered how Santa made it to every single house in just one night and exactly what it was about turkey that made us so deliriously happy and sleepy. But the tension hiding behind our parents’ smiles? That one was a little harder to figure out.
Now we know. The holiday season takes its toll on just about everybody. Americans are expected to spend around $720 billion this holiday season.1 Between money constraints and scheduling issues, it’s no wonder 62% of people report feeling stressed or very stressed during the most wonderful time of the year.²
That’s why we’re bringing a simple suggestion your way: Plan everything out beforehand. Sit down with your spouse, a close friend, a family member, or pen and paper to think about how you’ll spend your time and money. Use our prompts below for a stress-free holiday season!
Think About it: Questions for a Stress-Free Holiday
Answer the following questions to get an idea of what your holiday season could look like this year. Make note of how much money you think you’ll spend in each category. We’ll walk you through creating a Christmas budget at the end of this article.
1. What are your travel plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Grab your calendar and determine where you’ll be throughout the holiday season. For trips out of town, work out how you’ll get there. Will you drive or fly? Are you staying with family and friends, or do you need to book a place to stay? Let this question also act as a reminder to request for time off work, if you haven’t already.
2. Will you host Thanksgiving or Christmas in your home? Do you have the turkey-carving honors this year? Are you planning to have the whole family over for Christmas morning brunch? Would you like to throw a holiday party sometime in between? Think now about what you’ll provide, and—since you’re in charge—what you might ask your guests to bring.
3. How much money should you spend on your family, friends and spouse? No one wants to be the holiday Grinch. You can play Santa as long as you’re Santa on a budget. When discussing the “should” in this question, do your best not to be swayed by feelings of obligation. Instead, strive to reach a budget number that both sits well with your gift-giving priorities and that you can afford.
4. If you have kids, how much money will you spend on them? Your kids are lovely, we’re sure. Ours are, too. That’s what makes surprising them with gifts so much fun! And surprise them we do—the average American aged 8 to 14 opens up about $422 in gifts on Christmas morning. If that fits your budget and your priorities, go for it! Studies show us, though, that about 25% of parents take out payday loans, dip into their emergency funds, or withdraw from retirement to pay for presents.³ Yikes! Your kids don’t need a bunch more stuff wrapped up with less security. So be wise in your spending.
5. What activities did you do last year that you can drop this year? Did you drive an hour from your home to wait in a long line and pay way too much money to see lights you could have seen in your own neighborhood just because you do it every year? No need to make a tradition out of the ordeal! Take a good look at your other holiday holdovers. Be honest about what you love and what you don’t. You’ll probably discover that a little more time relaxing at home with your family and some extra money in your pocket make for a holly, jolly Christmas.
6. What about your holiday food budget? Ah, the other reason for the season. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas get-together is centered around food. You’re likely to go out to dinner more, be asked to pitch in at multiple potlucks or work parties, and also cook and bake above your normal routine. Build this often overlooked cost into your budget because food, especially holiday food, isn’t cheap!
Create a Christmas Budget for a Stress-Free Holiday
When holiday decorations hit the shelves, you know it’s time to get your Christmas budget in order. After all, if it’s not too early for retailers, it’s not too early for us.
Use EveryDollar to set up a budget group for your holiday spending. Create budget items within the group for the following: travel costs including gas, flights, rental car and hotel stay; gifts including individual lines for each person; activities including holiday parties and other events; and food including eating out. Assign a dollar amount to each item and consider how you’ll need to adjust your budget over the next couple of months to save up for extra holiday spending.
Track what you spend, stick to your budget, and you’ll be well on your way to a stress-free season!