Creating a Holiday Spending Plan for Years to Come


holiday spending plan: a december calendar with a piggy bank and tree ornaments surroundingWe are now knee-deep in the holiday season and I don’t know about you, but I am trying every tip and trick to keep it together this year and stay as organized as possible. Between staying up to date with emails, buying presents (for my four kiddos, husband, parents, extended family, teachers, bus drivers, service providers, etc), class parties, and holiday events around town, making sure that freaking elf is doing their job . . . I feel like I need three of me to keep everything straight. Not to mention this time of year is expensive! Our bank accounts are just as fatigued as we are. 

Plan Your “Hot Dogs”

I was listening to a podcast about organization during the holidays, and the hosts were speaking about meal planning during the holiday season. The moral of the story was to prep and pre-cook as much as you can, so then on nights when you are not running around, you can enjoy dinner as a family and relax on your night “off.”

They also talked about one of their peers who uses the phrase “plan your hot dogs.” Planning your hot dogs means that there are some nights you are going to have hot dogs or a bowl of cereal (or insert whatever food we feed our families when we don’t have the time or energy to cook) and that is okay! Plan for it, so you don’t feel bad or out of control when it is happening. 

I believe the same principle can apply to the expenses we incur during the holiday season. If we plan and mentally prepare for the cost of yuletide cheer, it may help us feel more in control during an out-of-control time. 

My family has a lot of traditions that make this time of year very expensive. “Ice” skating, building gingerbread houses, teacher gifts, special ornaments, baking cookies, and seeing the Nutcracker times six people adds up.

I end up resentful of the activity or tradition because I am constantly swiping my credit card and feeling out of control with the money I am spending. I mean, does the picture with Santa really have to cost $35?! Can’t we make do without leggings for our Christmas dress?! 

There are many “hot dogs” when it comes to holiday spending that we often feel bad about. Instead, if we just mentally prepare for them, the guilt hopefully doesn’t kick in. 

holiday spending plan: a hand pulling a dollar bill out of a red gift boxCreating a Holiday Spending Plan

When you create a meal plan, you look at the calendar and your events for the week or month and plan your meals based on logistics, activities, and time. Creating a Holiday Spending Plan can be no different. I don’t know about you, but I instantly feel more in control after putting pen to paper and making a list. 

1. List Holiday Activities

To create your Holiday Spending Plan, first, make a list of all the holiday activities you must participate in. For my family, it is building gingerbread houses, baking cookies, visiting Santa, seeing the Nutcracker, ice skating, and buying an ornament for each kid that reflects their interest this year. 

2. Calendar and Estimated Costs

Put your family’s must-do activities on your calendar (so you can plan your time and to-do list accordingly) and write an approximate amount of money needed for that activity.

3. List “Hot Dogs”

Once you have your calendar and activities documented, make a list of the random expenses you know you’re going to incur; these are our “hot dogs.” (New shoes; wrapping paper; gifts for the mail carrier, bus driver, and teachers; white elephant gifts for your child’s class; food donations for class parties; and hostess gifts are all examples of “hot dogs” I will pay for this year.)

Personally, the nickel-and-dime stuff is what really gets on my nerves because I feel like I have no control. Keep the list on your phone or somewhere you can easily access. You can assign the “hot dogs” a dollar amount if you’d like, or it may be helpful to just know that the expense is coming. As “hot dogs” come up, add them to the list so you’re better prepared for next year. 

4. Evaluate

Once the holidays are over, grab a glass of eggnog, coffee, whatever, and look through how you spent your time and money. Did you do everything on your must-do activity list? How much did it cost you? What about the “hot dogs” — what did they come to? If you can get a rough idea of what the holiday season costs, it can help you prepare for next year. 

Holiday Saving Plan for the Future

Your Holiday Spending Plan can turn into a Holiday Saving Plan. Take what you spent and divide by 12. Set aside some money each month to use for the holiday season later that year.

If you don’t think you’d be able to save strategically into a bank account, I have also witnessed people buying gift cards throughout the year for the purpose of holding onto them and using them during the holidays.

Another trick I implement is I “bank” all the cash back from my Amazon card throughout the year and use that cash back first on my holiday Amazon purchases.

Do what works best for you and your family and what, most importantly, allows you to relax and enjoy the season. Remember, ’tis the season . . . to spend money!


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