How to Stay on Budget During the Holidays

All it takes is a little planning.

It’s no secret that the holidays can be tough on your wallet. Between all the gift giving, grocery shopping, trips to parents, party outfits and decorations, you’d be hardpressed to find a few extra dollars lying around. Instead of stressing, we sat down with financial expert Marta Gonzalez and entertaining guru Brooke Thomas for their best budgeting tips and advice on how to not go broke. 

Set up a budget that works for you

According to Marta, you need to look at your savings account and decide how much you want to spend in total. You can also aim to deduct between 20% and 30% off of your last two paychecks prior to the holidays. From there, you’ll need to divide your budget into each area of spending. “Set priorities for your different needs,” she says. “Do you want to spend more on presents? Are you planning to travel? Can you re-use your home decorations or is time to buy new ones?”

Think frugally

Find little ways to cut back so you’re not strapped for cash come January. “It all comes down to want vs. need,” says Brooke. “It’s easy to grab an afternoon smoothie at my favorite juice bar or stop for sushi after picking up my girls from a late practice but, during the holidays, I’m more intentional so we don’t overdo it.” Marta also tries to only spend on what’s necessary. “Instead of eating out, I'll buy quality food and cook at home, which is also a good way to spend time with my loved ones,” she says.

Get creative when entertaining

When it comes to hosting, Brooke makes sure to have all her bases covered before spending. She saves on invites by using free options like Facebook or Evite and welcomes help from friends. “Most people will offer to bring something, so I gladly accept when it makes sense (bottles of wine and liquor add up quickly!),” she says. “I also take inventory of what I already have in my kitchen or pantry before I determine the menu so I don’t need to buy much else.”

Avoid impulse buys

To make sure you stay on budget during shopping trips, Marta recommends outlining just what you need. “Make a list of the items you want to buy, otherwise you’ll be tempted to buy other things and lose control of your spending,” she says. “I also have a rule—I don’t buy anything on impulse. Instead, I go home and if I still want it the following day, then I’ll purchase it.”

Keep track of your spending

Brooke manages her finances straight from the Mint app on her phone. “It takes the hassle out of making a budget,” she says. “You connect the app to your bank account and it uses your details to help create a personalized budget. It also lets your review all your bills and alerts you when your account is low to make sure you’re not spending off target.”