Track Holiday Spending and Save Money
A holiday gift expense spreadsheet (see example below) is a great place to start with your holiday gift-giving budget. Since you’re viewing this on a computer, you most likely already have a spreadsheet program. That’s all you’ll need to track your holiday expenses. Plus, keeping in in electronic form makes it even easier to budget from year to year and keep track of incidental expenses you typically forget about. If you have a smartphone, you may want to create your holiday expense spreadsheet in Google Docs and download Google Drive as an app so you’ve always got it with you.
Obviously, you’ll want to track the cost of your gift giving. The first column in your spreadsheet will include the name of everyone you need to buy for from your kids and spouse to grandparents, relatives, teachers, coaches, and babysitters. Don’t forget to include Santa gifts and stocking-stuffers. If you buy more than one gift for certain people, include a column for each individual gift (for Example: Emily Gift #1, Emily Gift #2, and so on). That way, when you find a great deal (which we’ll also be helping you with), you can snatch it up and check that person off your list. You spreadsheet may include these columns:
In Rows: Title of the expense (i.e. Emily’s Santa Gift)
In Column B: The name of what you’ve bought (i.e. American Girl Bed + Pajamas)
In Column C: Anticipated Expense (i.e. $100)
In Column D: Actual Expense (i.e. $75)
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, entries for other holiday expenses such as greeting cards, postage, holiday clothing, office incidentals, travel expenses, your tree and other decorations, charitable giving, hostess gifts, entertainment, food for holiday entertaining, and so on. Include all additional expenses related to the holiday season that you can think of. This is crucial, and leaving these things out is the reason why many holiday budgets fail. Here’s a great discussion we have in our forums on unexpected holiday expenses.
For now, just list all of your anticipated expenses in column A, as well as any gifts you’ve purchased already and what their cost was. The next step will be to create an actual holiday budget, which we’ll talk about tomorrow.