So many questions spring to mind when it comes to Christmas shopping. Everyone seems to rush around, trying desperately to buy their loved ones the ultimate gift.
What is the average Christmas budget?
What is a good amount to spend on Christmas gifts?
Is it too early to buy Christmas presents?
I could go on and on trying to answer these questions, but the fact is that everyone's situation is different. Your budget for Christmas shopping depends on what you can afford.
My take on this is to say to myself:
What can I afford to spend on Christmas shopping and everything else without going into debt?
It's never too early to start buying Christmas gifts, as long as you have the money saved to buy them. Below, I detail ideas, tips and tricks for how to do the Christmas shopping on a budget.
Please note that there are a couple of affiliate links in this post. It just means that if you click through and purchase anything, I get a small commission, that I use to pay my blog costs. It doesn't mean you pay any extra on top.
1. Make a Shopping list
Research before you go, ideas for each person, you are going to buy for.
This will stop you from wandering up to a really expensive item and convincing yourself - oh she’ll really love it!
Fair enough, but then the person you are buying for doesn’t realise the pain you have while you pay your credit card off right?
If you write down two or three ideas about what each person would possibly like, then you are more likely to stick to it.
2. Set a Spend Limit for Your Christmas Shopping
From the outset, set yourself a spend budget. Ask yourself some harsh questions such as:
- What realistically can I afford to spend on gifts this Christmas?
- What other household bills have I got due?
- How much money have I got spare, without resorting to credit?
The first time I did this, the spare money I had left horrified me! I had a grand total of about £20.This was because I wasn’t budgeting at all, and this was the amount I had left in my account.
The important thing about this spend limit is that you can't go over this. I find it easier to take this amount in cash, so I can physically see it and it helps me take time on my decisions.
From small beginnings
From this amount, you can build.
I was determined to make this figure better and better each year. For me, up until now, this has involved saving a certain amount every month and sending it to one of my friends. In return, she gives me a Christmas gift card, loaded with my money on for Christmas.
This way, I don’t spend it during the year, and we have an instant Christmas budget of £250.
Read on for tips to make a small amount of cash work for you.
If you are wanting a cute printable budget sheet to write everything, down click below for my Christmas budget sheet.
Looking forward to 2020
Next year, I plan to save the cash into a sink funds envelope, as I became concerned over the last three years as to the safety of my money. This was nothing to do with trusting my friend. I had seen reports of other big organisations going bust and not being able to pay people back the amounts on their gift cards.
From December’s budget I am using this set of sinking fund envelopes to save money for Christmas 2020.
Here is my budget plan for Christmas 2020 filled out. I have filled it in with my thoughts for next year. This will then inform my saving envelopes. (sink fund envelopes)
3. Pay for Christmas Gifts in Cash
Cash is a major spend stopper.
If you pay in cash, when Christmas shopping, it makes you think twice about handing it over. There’s something about having physical cash in my hand that really gives me an awareness that cash isn’t endless and it will run out.
Result - I take more care and spend more wisely.
Leave credit cards at home and only take your debit card to use in a real emergency.
Christmas shopping can be one of the easiest things to overspend on if you take them with you.
4. Christmas Shop alone
If you shop with someone else, this becomes an easy way to way overspend.
I know it sounds boring, but you avoid all the potential ‘spendy’ conversations like - aww that would really suit you - buy it!
This always happens to me if I shop with anyone other than Mr. Budget. Mr Budget enjoys the Christmas atmosphere, but there is no conversation around shopping because he finds its so dull! Also he speeds me up - his time limit on shopping tends to be about two hours max!
5. Look for Sales at other times of year
You don’t have to reserve your sink envelopes purely for spending just before Christmas.
If I see a bargain, particularly, just after Christmas, I will buy it. I need to have this amount in my sink envelope already. After the purchase, I mark down on my envelope who I have bought for and how much it was. Also, what is left in the sink envelope on that date.
6. Limit the amount of toys you buy
If you have kids, try to come up with a limit for each child, of how many toys or presents you will buy them. After all, how many presents can a child play with at once?
If you have noticed that some toys have never been played with, this could be an indication that last year’s amount of presents was maybe too many.
It’s worth also to bear in mind, that relatives will also be buying the kids presents too, so they will probably have plenty, even if you cut down the number this year.
Get the Kids Involved with Saving Money on Christmas Gifts
You could choose to explain to them what is going to happen, and maybe ask them for ideas of free things you could do as a family, that they enjoy. Tell them that family time in the holidays, is a big part of Christmas too. You may be surprised about how well they get on board with this.
I have heard of people ask their kids that if Santa had to afford Christmas for everyone, what would be the lowest number of presents that every child should get? Potentially this could backfire - like one of them saying ‘I think he should give us 100 presents’, but it could be worth getting them involved in the money saving in this way.
7. Divide up Gifts and Wrap Separately
Buy presents that can be easily divided and wrapped separately.
So you buy a three pack of character socks and wrap each pair up individually. A train set could be wrapped up into as many pieces as your sanity allows!
The great thing about this is that you could have spent way less, but every person’s presents look like way more than they would do wrapped up together.
If you put the presents inside stockings, for your kids, they are going to be kept busy for a lot longer unwrapping each part.
Need this article for later? Pin one of my images straight to your Pinterest.
8. Combine Christmas gifts
Another solution for Christmas shopping on a budget would be to combine gifts together, where you can.
Could you buy your sister and her partner a gift they will both love, say a coffee set, for $20, instead of paying $25 each for separate presents?
Would your mum and dad love vouchers towards an experience or their next holiday?
9. Use a Cashback website or App like Rakuten (ebates)
If you live in the US, using Rakuten (Ebates) is something else you can do when Christmas shopping on a small budget. When you register with them, you can get cashback for everything you spend on your card.
Rakuten support the use of American Express Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards. You can get cashback by spending online or instore.
10. Plan Way ahead
This has been a major game changer for my Christmas budget. Now I have been able to more than quadruple my budget from four years ago and I hardly notice it. You might not be able to do it this year, but hey, now’s the time you can start your Christmas budget for next year.
How to Budget for Christmas Gifts Way Ahead
- Write down everything you need on a Christmas budget planner.
- Total it up and check - is it realistic? Can I really afford each part?
- Be familiar with what you already spend monthly normally, so you can estimate whether it is realistic. (My article on make a budget is useful for creating a household monthly budget. )
- Divide this figure by 11. This will give you a total figure to save each month. (Yes, I give myself a month’s breathing space because there might be unexpected items of my budget around Christmas, so I save for 11 months. )
- Save this amount every month.
- To make it easier, if you are using my sink envelopes to do this, you can divide each budget area by 11 and take it to the nearest dollar.
- Write the monthly figure you need to save on the front of the envelope, along with the full target amount.
11. Give meaningful gifts for Christmas
My final tip is to buy gifts with meaning, or check before you buy, what someone really wants. My mum, for example, this year, was really enthusiastic to tell me that she would love a pair of slippers. She knew exactly which ones she wanted, and I ended up paying so much less than I would have if I had tried to figure out which ones she wanted. Chances are she wouldn’t have worn the ones I’d have chosen either.
Some people would argue that this is taking the magic out of Christmas, but I would argue that not only does someone get what they want, you save money on most occasions and avoid wasted Christmas presents.
Another idea would be to use your talents to create presents. Can you paint, draw or design excellent graphics? Why not give one of your creations as a present, if you have time to do this.
Can you knit? Knitted clothes are so on trend now - this could be a major money saver!
Could you organise a Christmas date day for you and your partner?