Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated February 21, 2009)
If you are anything like the vast majority of the population, then the approaching holidays have you excited and scared at the same time. Excited because you are going to be able spend time with loved ones whom you have not been able to see for a while. Scared because you are going to be spending money, often money that you don't have, and are going to have to pay for it some how. Probably the single question that is most often asked at this time of year is how can I budget for holiday gift spending?
Though it might seem like it, budgeting holiday gift spending is not some magic formula. All it takes is a little self discipline, forethought, and a little creativity to accomplish. Basically, the bottom line is that you are going to need to keep your priorities in order and your largesse in check. Do this, and you are not going to find yourself feeling the nasty crunch that many people do when it comes around the first of the year.
To begin, you are going to need to exercise a little self discipline. This means you should first come up with an idea of what state your current finances are in. Simply put, you are not going to know how much you can safely spend if you don't know the amount you have available to spend. Take some time to go over your finances and in the process you might just be surprised to learn how financially sound (or unsound) you actually are.
Once you know the total amount of money that you have available for your holiday gift spending, then you need to set a limit. Yes, you are going to need to set a price limit on exactly how much you are going to spend on each member of your family and on your friends. With this price limit in mind, you then need to sit and think about what the individual tastes and preferences are for each person. When you have these preferences in mind, you are going to use a little creativity in being able to fulfill them.
For example, if Uncle Billy likes to read then you might want to find a book for him. When you are looking for his favorite book, you don't always have to go to Barnes and Noble for the latest edition of it. Instead, why not look at a second-hand book store? Quite often you are going to be able to find fantastic deals and some wonderful surprises in those nooks and crannies.
In the end, budgeting for holiday spending is going to entail the same things that any budget requires: forethought, creativity, and discipline. It's not that difficult to come up with a budget. It, however, can be difficult to stick to a budget when you do come up with it. This is where discipline comes into play.
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