Christmastime can be the most stressful time of the year for many families, both financially and otherwise. I feel like this year, was one of the first years that my wife and I successfully navigated the Christmas season without going over budget, and still having a wonderful Christmas morning, and Christmas break. This post is about what worked for us this Holiday season.
Budgeting for Christmas
Our oldest child of five, is now 8-years-old. In the past, it seems we could more or less wing it on Christmas. As long as we bought our kids boy’ish toys for the boys, and girl’ish toys for the girls, then everyone was happy. However, this year, the kids wanted VERY specific gifts. My son wanted a 4-foot robot. My 7 and 5-year-old daughters both wanted American girl dolls and Baby Alive dolls. The younger two weren’t quite as opinionated.
The only problem was, we had already set a firm Christmas budget by the time the kids said they wanted these $200 and $100 toys. The budget we had established was $50 for each person (including parents), $35 for all of the stockings, and $70 for each of our extended families. This gave a grand total for the Christmas budget of
($50 * 7) + $35 + $70 + $70 = $525
We budgeted most of this into our November budget, since we wanted to be able to complete a lot of the shopping during Black Friday sales. We managed to complete a lot of it in November, but also carried some over to December. The best part about setting a conservative budget for Christmas was… everyone was actually happy. I have noticed in past years, that if you give too many gifts for Christmas, many of them get lost in all the hype of Christmas morning. However, when children get a few gifts that they really want, they seem to cherish them more.
How were the kids happy if they didn’t get all the gifts they asked for? Well, my son got a 2-foot robot, instead of a 4-foot robot. My wife found the Baby Alive dolls on sale, so was still able to get them the dolls they wanted, just not the American girl dolls as well, which they were perfectly fine with. The most amazing thing is, we actually stayed on budget for all of December! It feels great to end the month, not having dipped into next months paychecks.
Having fun without breaking the bank
The other tricky part about the holidays, is managing the time off of work. Many folks in the workforce take time off during the holidays to spend more time with their children, who are often home from school for Christmas Break. This year, I took a full 10 days off (between Christmas Eve and just after the New Year). Most activities cost money, and some of them can cost a LOT of money, when you think about it. Skiing can be $90+ per ticket. Movies can be $10+. Eating out adds up quickly also. We are nearing the end of the Christmas break, and here are some of the great, low-budget activities that we have been able to do this week, without spending a ton of money:
- Seven Peaks Fun Center (free, after purchasing pass-of-all-passes)
- Sledding (free, just find a hill with some snow, maybe up the canyon)
- Papercraft Rollercoaster ($5.28, needed to but some card stock)
- Sticky Shoe Dollar Theater ($17.50, 2 buckets of popcorn, 2 large drinks)
- Arctic Circle ($3, the courtesy cones are free, but we buy some fries too)
- Bean Museum ($5, entrance free, but bought some toys at the gift shop)
- Movies at Home ($2, sad to see VidAngel go away, but Redbox is here)
- Board Games ($15, we bought the Pie Face game, the kids love it)
Getting ready for next year
With the passing of each year, come New Year’s resolutions. We have a lot of fun activities planned for this next year, and it will take some serious budgeting to stay on track. In January we are going to Kauai, Hawaii. In March we are going to Disneyland, California Adventure, and Legoland. Needless to say, it does not look like we will have our fully funded emergency fund by February 1st, as we were originally hoping. But that’s okay! We currently have 4 out of the 6-month emergency fund in place, which is most of the way there. This will allow us to have a debt-free and worry-free vacation in Hawaii in just a few short weeks. Before we know it, we will be on to Baby Step 4 of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps!