The holidays are fast approaching and I know that budgeting is on a lot of minds.  Several folks have expressed an interest in having me discuss Christmas on a budget, so periodically I'll bring you some information on budgeting and creative gift ideas.

Here's what I'm going to do-- I'll share what has worked for me, first.  I'm no expert, but I've been doing Christmas on a budget for the past several years and I'm happy to pass along what I've learned. 

One thing I will try my best not to do is tell you a bunch of stuff you already know.  Have you ever bought a magazine in the checkout line because the cover claimed it had the "Five Ways Smart Shoppers Save Money!!" or "The Best-Kept Secrets of Bargain Shopping!!" And then, when you get it home, you find that all it does is re-hash the same old information that we've all seen a million times?  I hate that.  And I definitely don't want to do that to all of you.

With that in mind, the first and most important thing about Christmas budgeting is... budgeting.  You need to sit down now (not in December) and figure out what you can spend and who you need to buy for.  Because what happens to all of us is that you get to December and there are one or two people that get left until the last minute, and you end up spending way too much on them out of desperation.  The key to not overspending is planning.

Ready?  Let's get started!

Make A List and Check It Twice
Open up a spreadsheet or sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil, and make a list of everyone you'll need to buy for.  You can also download pre-formatted gift lists and fill them in.  I know you've all heard me go on and on about Christmas binders, but this is exactly what they're for. Check out this adorable gift list that you can download for free:
There are also Christmas budgeting pages available from Organized Christmas like this holiday budget worksheet, this master gift list, and this gift ideas planner.  You can see all their available Christmas planning pages here. Personally, I use the gift list pages from FLYLady's Holiday Control Journal.
Be Realistic About Your Budget
Once you've made a list of everyone you need to buy for, think about how much you can spend on each person.  Be honest with yourself about your Christmas budget.  I'll say that again.  Be honest with yourself about your Christmas budget.  Don't try to do more than you can.  It will actually free you up to be more creative and come up with maybe one really special thing rather than a bunch of little things.

Follow The Budget
Then, stick to your budget.  I know, I know.  It's especially hard when you find something that you think is perfect, but is a little more than you planned to spend.  And you know what?  If it's that perfect, then it's okay to splurge a little.  (A little.)  But first ask yourself if it's really worth it.  Don't buy on impulse. 

These are the basics of budgeting.  Learn them, live them, love them.  They will be your friends.  Once you've decided how much you're going to spend, what do you do next?  Tomorrow we're going to discuss putting your budget to work!  Stay tuned!



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