Blue piggy bank with a santa hat, calculator, gift and a bottle brush tree with the word "budget" on it.

Do you feel the holiday season brings you more stress than joy? Do you dread the Christmas shopping season because you always end up having to put all your gifts and expenses on a credit card? If reading this gives you cold sweats just thinking about it then you need a holiday budget planner.

I know exactly how depressing the holiday season can be when you’re plagued by money stress. You want to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones but it’s just not in the budget.

Maybe you even save money all year round in a holiday sinking fund yet you still seem to overspend and cringe when your credit card bills arrive in January…

In 2018 Americans racked up over $1,000 in debt to afford Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to go into more debt just to be able to give gifts this holiday season. The good news? It doesn’t have to be like this for you…

How would it feel to know you won’t have to spend the entire first quarter working to pay off Christmas?

How would it feel to know exactly how much you need to save and not feel guilty every time you purchase Christmas gifts?

How would your holiday experience differ if you were able to pay for every single holiday expense down to the kids’ church clothes and your New Year’s celebrations without having to put it on a credit card or stretch your December budget to the max?

I get it. I spent years dreading the most wonderful time of year for exactly these reasons.

The holidays have always been my favorite time of year but once I became an adult they seemed to have a dark cloud handing over them.

READ MORE: 10 Creative DIY Christmas Gifts People Will Actually Love

I absolutely love buying gifts for people and making family memories during the holidays but I would have such a pit in my stomach every time I’d go Christmas shopping because I knew I really couldn’t afford to spend the money I was spending.

Things got even worse during our debt-free journey because I wanted so desperately to use any extra money to put towards our debt snowball payments so diverting that money to all of our holiday expenses made me feel like we weren’t making any progress towards our goals.

White calculator wearing a santa hat, Christmas gifts and yellow stars with text that reads: How to create a holiday budget you can actually stick to

A few years ago I was feeling so frustrated that I was worried about the approaching holidays instead of eagerly anticipating my favorite time of year that I decided to make a plan.

I’m a visual person so I love putting pen to paper and writing things out. There’s something about getting thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto paper that really helps bring clarity.

The result of this brainstorm sesh was my Holiday Budget Planner. I got to thinking – we sit down and consistently create a monthly budget every. single. month. and it has helped us achieve multiple financial goals over the past few years so why am I not applying that same concept to the holiday season?

Using this Holiday Budget Planner the past two years has drastically changed the holidays for me. It has reduced the money stress and brought back the joy – and it can do the same for you.

Free Holiday Budget Planner

This planner has helped me transform our holidays and stick to our holiday budget so much that I want to share it with you…for free!

Here’s what you’ll get when you download this free printable planner:

Printable Holiday Gift Tracker

Most often our biggest holiday expense (for people who celebrate Christmas, obviously) will be Christmas gifts.

Use the Holiday Gift Tracker to plan out all of the gifts you need to purchase. You can brainstorm gift ideas and estimate the amount you will spend.

Total all of the gifts and get your total budget for Christmas gifts. Don’t forget to come back and fill in the amount you actually spent on each gift, once purchased. This is essential to let you know whether or not you are sticking to your holiday budget.

Holiday Spending Plan Worksheet

Once you’ve completed your Holiday Gift Tracker let’s move on to your Holiday Spending Plan worksheet.

This is the most crucial part of the plan – it’s essentially your holiday budget. You are going to use this sheet to plan your spending for the entire holiday season.

Yours may look different from mine depending on what holidays you may or may not celebrate. Personally, I include any and all expenses regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

You’ll find multiple categories with expenses already included for you and blank lines to add in any others that may not be listed so you won’t miss anything.

Create your spending plan using any and all expenses you can think of, more is better, again we want to estimate higher.

Brown and green gift bag with $20 bill sticking out of it and text that reads: How to easily save money for the holidays even on a small income with a free holiday budget planner

If you think you might take the family ice skating, go ahead and include it in your spending plan. If you end up not making it to the ice skating rink, that’s ok.

Now you have extra money to put towards another holiday activity, put in your holiday savings, or put towards a different financial goal altogether.

Total up all the items and categories on your spending plan and transfer that number to the “goal” line on your Holiday Savings Tracker.

Now you know the amount of money you’ll need to save or cash flow for the holiday season. If you’re creating your Holiday Budget Plan during the holiday season, you’ll need to save a greater amount of money in a shorter amount of time.

When it comes to the holidays, there is no such things as planning and saving too early.

READ MORE: 5 Fun Savings Challenges To Help Boost Your Savings All Year Long

Take your goal amount and divide if by 100. This will tell you how much each tree icon will be equal to on your tracker.

For example: If your savings goal is $1,000 then $1,000 ⁒ 100 = 10 so every time you save $10 towards your holiday savings you fill in 1 tree icon.

How Much Do You Need to Save for the Holidays?

Now that you’ve created your spending plan and you know your goal holiday savings amount let’s determine how you’re going to save the money you need for the holidays.

Decide (based on your budget + pay schedule) how you plan to save for the holidays: Monthly? Weekly? Bi-weekly? This will be different for everyone since we all have different budgeting preferences.

Then take the number of intervals between now and the time you need to have reached your savings goal – I usually save right up through the end of the year because no matter how early I start shopping there always seems to be a bunch of last-minute things that come up.

Divide your goal amount by the number of intervals. Ex: Today is Oct. 1st. That gives me three full months to reach my holiday savings goal. If we stick with our example above this would look like $1,000 ⁒ 3 (months) = $333.33.

To reach our holiday savings goal by the end of the year we would need to save $333 each month for the next three months.

I hope this illustrates the value of planning ahead and starting a holiday savings fund at the beginning of the year. I know, I know, we all need a holiday detox in January before we can even start thinking of starting this process all over again – but let’s take a quick look at the math.

If we stick with the same numbers but begin saving in the month of January it would look like this: $1,000 ⁒ 12 (months) = $83.33.

If you are disciplined enough to make holiday savings a priority in the beginning of the year you could save $250 LESS each month and still reach your savings goal by the end of the year.

Once you download your free Holiday Budget Planner it’s yours to keep so you can print a new copy each year to help you reduce the holiday money stress and have a peaceful, calm holiday season.

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