How we budget for the holidays

The date never changes. I think I knew that Christmas was on December 25, long before I knew what day my birthday was on. And yet, every year, I hear that the holiday sneaks up on some people and they are left wondering how they are going to make those gift lists that their children create a reality.

We do our very best to not make Christmas about the presents or the gift lists. Our children have everything that they need. We are beyond grateful to have a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in, food that fills the pantry and clean water that comes out of the tap.

As parents, we decided very early on {out of necessity mostly} that we wouldn't indulge our children's every want. We don't buy new toys at the store, heck, we rarely buy any new books {thank you library!}. The kids never beg for candy or gum in the grocery aisle because they know they won't get it.

Because we exercise restraint most of the year, we do like to have our children receive at least one item that we know they really want at Christmas.

I've been asked multiple times throughout the years, how we stick to a budget for the holidays. Well, I'm spilling our secrets!

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about the benefits of buying used gifts for Christmas. I shared with you that we budget $50 for each of our kids' gifts for Christmas.  This is far below the national average and we are totally o.k. with that.

This budget allows us to be more generous in other areas of our life. We are able to give to those in need, not just to those in want.

So, the million dollar question is, where does our money for Christmas spending come from? Well, my friends, just yesterday, we requested to cash out our Chase rewards card and by early next week a shiny new check will be in our mailbox earmarked for Christmas spending.
When we use our Chase card {it's the only one we use}, we receive points on every purchase and those points then can be redeemed for cash. Well, other stuff too like travel, experiences, merchandise and gift cards, but we almost always choose cash.  Because cash. Duh. 
After I deposit that shiny new check, I will be buying things with the money I deposited  and I will be collecting more points. The glorious cycle continues! 

I'm stretching my dollar and saving money all at the same time! {cue hallelujah chorus}

Your first step in budgeting for the holidays is to know how much you want to spend on each person and do your best to stick to that limit. I have talked to friends who don't do this and start buying from their children's wish list instead. Before they know it, they have hundreds of dollars worth of gifts set aside for their children who already have shelves full of toys and electronics.

If you buy family gifts {for your parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents}, try to set a limit for that as well. I try to shop all year long in anticipation of Christmas and buy gifts for friends and family members when they are deeply discounted.

The key is knowing your number and doing your best to be creative to stay in that budget.
Once you start buying gifts, keep track of what you bought and your spending. Because I shop all year long, sometimes I forget about the toy I set aside for my 10 year old that I picked up on major clearance in January. I take inventory of those items before I do any major shopping.

Finally, allow yourselves to be generous. I would much rather give to someone who really needed, rather than just to someone who wanted, however, there is joy in giving regardless.

Our family has two children through child sponsorship with World Vision living in Uganda. I've seen the needs in that area and I know those children can benefit from the savings I create from sticking to our budget. They have basic needs that aren't always being met. Because we are able to stretch our dollar, shop smart and use our credit card to get rewards on anything we want, we can be generous to the real needs of those living on the other side of the world!

There is no magic budget solution, but there is a magic card that will allow you to put money back into your pocket when you spend all year round. I would love to hear your tips on how you budget for the holidays.

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