Christmas on a Post-grad Budget


Now that Halloween is over, radios and department stores everywhere have decided it’s Christmas time. Whether you’ve already started decorating for the holidays or you insist on waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to hang a single stocking, it’s probably a good time to plan your Christmas budget.

While I was still in school, I was definitely given a pass on the gift giving front. My parents still funded most of my presents, and I didn’t think much of it. Now that I’ve graduated and am living on my own, I’d say it’s time my Christmas gifts actually came from my money. Do you agree? Awesome. Let’s plan.

Dave Ramsey, mastermind behind the envelope system that I already adore, recently launched an online budgeting tool for the holiday season. You can insert all of your planned expenses and then record what you buy for who and how much it cost. It’s great for planning, but a plain old excel spreadsheet can do the same thing. Most importantly, I think it’s crucial to employ the cash method here as well.

Steps to Happy Holiday Budget

1. Determine your total holiday budget

This amount will definitely vary depending on your income level and personal desire to invest in holiday related things. I settled on $150 as my total budget. It’s slightly more than my total envelope budget for a week, and based on the number of people I want to give gifts to, I think this should cover things.

2. Decide what/who you’re spending money on

This includes all gift buying, but it may also include a tree, decorations, special charitable gifts, or food for the family gathering. List these items out.

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Brother
  • Sister-in-law
  • Fiancé
  • Future in-laws
  • Future sister-in-law
  • Nephew
  • Friend
  • Friend

3. Divide and conquer

To make it easy, you can divide your total budget equally among all your expenses (for me, that would be $15 per person). Otherwise, go through and determine what amount you want to allocate specifically to that person/item.

4. Create a Christmas envelope

Similar to what I did for my weekly budget envelopes, I’m going to have a special envelope with dividers for each person that I will be buying a gift for. Using the low-cost method of index cards, I will distribute cash accordingly and use ONLY this money for buying gifts. The original envelope rules still apply.

Now, as far as filling the holiday envelope goes, you have a couple options:
A. Withdraw the money for your total holiday budget all at once
B. Leading up to shopping time, withdraw smaller amounts of money periodically and insert them into the envelopes – Consider withdrawing an extra $20 each week when you refill your other budget envelopes. This way it’s not such a big hit to your bank account all at once.

Ready to give it a shot? Think of how wonderful it will be to afford presents for all of your loved ones while NOT stressing about the cost! Happy Holiday Spending 🙂


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