How to Plan a Christmas Budget

It’s January, so let’s talk Christmas!

Ha Ha – No really!

It’s the New year and the perfect opportunity to reflect on the previous year and of course the Christmas spending!

  • Did you stay in budget?
  • Did you have enough saved for everything you wanted to do?
  • Are you saving now for Christmas?

If you answered no to any of the above, I would get your thinking caps on and start planning Christmas now in January!

For a few years now, I have saved a monthly amount for Christmas in an instant access account. I have a regular payment, known as a standing order, that leaves my bank account a few days after payday every month and is transferred straight into the account. I don’t have to think about it as it’s automatically done.

If you have followed me for a while, you’ll realise I am still tweaking this amount to suit our needs and still haven’t quite got it right – but I’m getting there!

My intention is to have an amount that covers absolutely everything, so cards, presents, wrapping paper, postage, Christmassy days out and gifts that I always forget about until the last minute – teacher gifts, pets and stocking fillers!

The ultimate goal for me is to complete Christmas without a single pound spend on a credit card but this is going to take some serious planning. I still think it can be done though.

Over the years, I have made a list of everyone I wanted to buy for and put down an amount of what I wanted to spend. Although this has worked for most part, I have never given myself an amount as a contingency and also never thought about including Christmas days out and activities.

As you know, Christmas activities are usually super expensive anyway so this needs to be definitely factored into the budget. And it’s something we always love to do so I’m not prepared for us to stop doing something we get so much out of.

Just the memory of us at Christmas spending £24.00 on four marshmellow sticks that we roasted over an open fire and had covered in chocolate still sends shivers through my ‘trying to be frugal, without ruining Christmas’ brain. I mean, I want to do these things – occasionally as treats but also want them to be accounted for. Even if they have to be labelled as the category, ‘the most ridiculous things to spend – NO BLOW, your cash on’!

Wouldn’t it be lovely to save an amount for Christmas and NOT use it all up so you had some left to roll over? I mean that would seriously be the dream.

So, let the planning for Christmas commence!

1) Write a list of people you want to buy for. Remember to include pets, neighbours, teachers and anyone else who usually forget (if you’re like me anyway!).

2) Set REALISTIC budget/s. I say realistic because there is no point in thinking I am going to be really good and only spend £10 on this person, if in reality, the last ten years you’ve spent £100 on them.

3) Add a small budget for contingencies and slight over spends. YOU’RE NOT PERFECT AND THAT’S OK! You don’t have to use it but it’s there as a Christmas emergency fund if you need it.

4) Think about what activities you would like to do at Christmas (if any) and price up how much it’s going to cost. What I found last year, is by leaving the booking of these activities till Summer it meant they were booked up or the prices went up so they were super duper expensive . In fact, last Autumn when I tried to book Lapland UK, it was booked up completely for the whole of December! So last Summer, I ended up making a diary note for January this year to book for the coming Christmas. That’s how far advance you need to think about these things. Another thing, by booking things out of season you may get them cheaper. WIN WIN!

5) Check your wrapping, cards and Sellotape stock. What will you need to buy? Could you buy it now out of season cheaper?

6) Check what you spend on food and alcohol last year whilst it’s still fresh in your mind and use that as your food budget.

7) Are you planning to buy the family matching pj’s this Christmas? How much will they cost and add this into your budget.

8) What were the costs from the kids activities this year? Parties, donations, fairs etc. How much did that cost?

9) Do you already know of some expensive gifts that people may already want, that you can start saving for now?

In answering all these types of questions, it will help you to have an idea of the type of Christmas you want and most importantly can afford, without getting into debt – or further into debt.

I have made another couple of trackers for saving for Christmas, which as always can be downloaded for free. This one is Saving for Christmas in 12, for if you want to save on a monthly basis. You can colour each part as your savings grow.

This Saving for Christmas in 52 is if you want to save weekly, so it will have 52 pictures to colour in – Coming soon!

I find seeing savings grow or debt decreasing visually using trackers and money pots really encouraging for me and it keeps me motivated. See if it works for you. I’ve even got my mum into them now, ha ha ha!

In 2020 I saved £40 a month and 2021 I saved £50 a month. Both of these amounts haven’t worked for me so don’t be afraid to get it wrong and try again. Maybe this year I’ll get the amount right!

This year I’m going to save £80 a month. I’m still tweaking my list of who to buy for and what budget I want to spend on each person. I’m even considering not buying for some this year. Not in an awful way but I feel I have to be realistic. I also hope this year I don’t over spend at all. In 2020 I over spend by about £900 and in 2021 I overspend by £300. And unfortunately it all went on a credit card 😦

But although I overspent, I still noticed a huge difference in my attitude towards money and the choices I made this year compared to last. I was more thoughtful on what I spent the money on. For example this year I said no (to myself) to buying the matching family pj’s, amongst other things. And noticeably, I spent £600 less than the previous year.

So I’m definitely not there yet, but I’m getting there!

What do you think about starting Christmas Planning early? Nuts or Definitely good to do? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading



Money Wise Talks 16/12/2021


I’m starting to get really excited now – possibly caused by the decision to watch a least one Christmas film a night to get into the Christmas spirit!

And it’s working alright! I’ve never heard of there ever being a time when there was too much Christmas spirit. That wasn’t alcohol related anyway! Lol

I’m not sure why I’m so excited this year, but maybe because it feels so different to last year. My Christmas shopping is all done and wrapped. I’m not working every waking minute, completely stressed out and missing time with my daughter.

This week I received my official offer of a permanent job, the one I’ve been doing through an agency since September. I was successful at the interview the other week and have been waiting for references and checks to come back. My new start date is 4 January 2022.

What a way to start the New Year!

I have a really good feeling about this next year. I feel this is the year I will finally become debt free. It was my plan to become debt free by December 2021 but when I made this plan I had no plans to leave teaching and when I did leave teaching, I found myself without a job. I immediately signed up to an agency so at least I was earning something but in that instance, I lost 10k in wages. I’m still not being paid as much as when I was a teacher but I have plans to get there within the next 12 months for sure.

This week has been full of positivity but I can’t ignore the fact I’ve gone over budget.

I planned Christmas last December and after going ridiculous over budget last year by £900 I vowed to never be so stupid again and I set up a standing order for £83 every month to cover Christmas 2021. At the time, I thought I needed approximately £1000 to cover everything I wanted. This included; nights out, food, Christmas days out with my friends, family and daughter, decorations, presents and well basically everything Christmas.

Then I got smart – too smart and after a few months I decided to change the amount from £83 to £50. I told myself it was silly to spend so much on Christmas. I scaled back everyone’s gifts and continued to save this amount for the whole year, giving me £600 for Christmas.

And you know what, it’s not enough. Everyone’s budget and personal finance is just that, personal. And for me it’s just not enough. I haven’t brought any decorations or lights this year or Elf on the Shelf things like last year and I’ve been out once with work for a Christmas meal. I was right last year – £1000 for me would have given me the budget that I need to get everything I want without going over budget.

This is a huge learning curve for me. If I compare myself to what I should have spent this year, I’ve failed massively. However, if I compare myself to last year, I’ve made progress because I haven’t spent £900 over budget. I’m going to take it as a positive step in the right direction because this is the first time in forever I really know what I spend at Christmas. Next year I’ll have £1000 saved and I’m really interested now in how it all pans out!

I’ve still got to work out exactly how much over budget I’ve gone over by – I’ve been putting it off I’m not going to lie.

I did succumb to my daughter’s puppy eyes at the weekend and brought a moving model village fair ferris wheel for £135. WHAT WAS I THINKING!

It wasn’t until a few days later I saw she had stuffed her tiny teddy in it so it could go for a ride that I decided she didn’t quite understand that it was an ornament and not a toy so I took it back. Sometimes when you go a little crazy, you just need to take things back.

What I Have Spent This Week

£50 Christmas money given to my daughter for my present

£40.60 Gift and food at Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience

£35.17 Tesco food

£20.00 Tesco petrol

£169.90 Garden centre – spent on model Ferris wheel and other bits (135.00 has been refunded)

Total £315.67

Considering my weekly budget is £50 per week with no budget for anything else, you can see now why I need more room in my budget for Christmas. Things I’d not accounted for, like my daughter wanting money to spend on me for Christmas so she can experience shopping for Christmas with my mum. And the annual Christmas trip to somewhere really special, this time to Harry Potters Forbidden Forest Experience – again not considered.

This journey I’m on is not just about paying off debt and having all the answers. It’s about having a better understanding of my spending behaviours. Trying and failing and trying again with budgets, finance plans and everything money related. As they say “To learn to succeed, you must first learn how to fail”.