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A holiday budget it more than guessing how much you think you may spend. It’s a plan you make that decides in advance how much you will spend. A good holiday budget will be broken down into categories – like gifts, decorations, food – so you can see where your money will be going. Because it can be easy to overspend during the holidays, a budget helps you take control of your spending instead of letting it take control of you.

We even created a holiday budget worksheet you can use. Download and print it here.

let’s get this budget party started

We’ll show you how to create a holiday budget in less than 30 minutes, so let’s get going. First, write down what you’ve saved or have available to spend this year. Next, write down these categories:

• gifts

• food

• decorations

• travel

• supplies

• activities

We’ll go into more detail about each of these categories next. Once you finish working on a category, add up its numbers and write down the total on your list. Gifts are our favorite part of the holidays, so let’s start there.


Write down all the people to whom you’d like to give gifts. This could include your immediate and extended family, friends and your kids’ teachers. Add in a line for stocking stuffers too. When you finish, go back and put a dollar amount next to each person’s name.

Savings tip: If you have a large family, consider drawing names or Secret Santa instead of buying gifts for everyone.


Write down the types of cooking you’ll be doing. For instance, if you’re hosting a holiday meal for more than your immediate family, estimate what it’ll cost you. Do you make lots of treats? Include an estimate for your ingredients. If you’ll have out-of-town guests staying with you, include an estimate for everyday groceries.

Savings tip: Buying in bulk at a warehouse store can help cut your food costs.


If you get a live tree every year, add $5-10 to what you paid for it last year and write down the amount. If you need new lights, candles, tinsel or ornaments, include what that may cost you.

Savings tip: Consider an artificial tree. They can save you money in the long run over live trees and you can usually get them on clearance after the holidays end.


If you’ll be driving out of town for the holidays, estimate what you’ll spend for gas, hotels, etc. If you’re taking the bus, train or will be flying, write down what that’ll cost you, as well as a rental car if you need one.

Savings tip: Pack your own snacks for the trip. They’re ridiculously expensive at gas stations and airport shops.


Gift wrap, boxes and tissue paper may not sound expensive on their own, but their costs can add up quickly. So can greeting cards and stamps. Write down an estimate for what you think you’ll need to spend.

Savings tip: Shop post-holiday clearance sales for amazing deals on gift supplies.


Do your children get their picture taken with Santa every year? Write what it cost last year as an estimate. If there are other holiday traditions your family enjoys, include an estimate for those too.

Savings tip: Brainstorm as a family for new holiday activities that don’t cost a lot.

drum roll, please

Add up your category totals to get your holiday spending estimate. If your estimate is less than what you have saved or available to spend, you’re ready to start shopping. If it’s more, go back to your list and see if you can trim costs from any of the items in each category.

You could also get a part-time job to earn extra money. Many retail stores hire temporary help during the holidays. Food delivery companies are also a good option for making extra cash.

Once you start shopping, keep track of how much you actually spend in each category. After the holidays are over, look at how you did versus your budget and write down the results for each category and the total.

ready for the holidays – 2022 edition

Use this year’s budget to start planning for next year. You already have everything written down, including what you actually spent. If you can, start a savings account and put aside money every time you get paid. You’ll have money ready when it’s time to start your 2022 holiday shopping and when you see deals throughout the year.

If you want to create a budget you can use all year long, check out our budget article at

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