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



Elf on The Shelf on a Budget!

This is a special post to all the parents out there who will very soon be having a special little visitor to join them in the Christmas cheer. And if it’s anything like ours, it will be causing lots of mayhem and mess!

If you’re like me, I spend nearly every night in December going to bed with not a care in the world and just as I’m about to nod off, I’m woken up by a jolt of “Oh No, I’ve forgotten to move the bloomin Elf!”. Or in my case – two bloomin Elves!.

Please tell me it’s not just me that does this?!

As parents we must be mad! Why do we do this to ourselves and make our lives harder at the busiest time of the year by having an Elf. But then seeing my girl’s face light up each morning is definitely enough for me! Almost lol!

I don’t know about you. I always start off super creative on the 1st of December and then as the month moves on so does my motivation, creativity and will to live. Last year Chippy and Buddy our Elves got stuck in the Christmas tree for a few days as I forgot to move them, opps! And the worse part, there was me thinking my failings had gone unnoticed by my daughter, until one day when she told me the Elves were boring and she didn’t want them to come again. Ha! Now I know she didn’t mean this but it made me wake up to the serious responsibility I had of chief Elf planner and mover and from that day forward I promised my elf (sorry couldn’t resist) I would not be so crap next time.

This year is the next time – so here’s to being the best Elf mover around!

This year, so far, I’m organised. We are still in November, most of my Christmas shopping is done with the Christmas fund and not debt and I have an Elf plan. And even better than all that, I thought I’d share it all with you too! Sharing is what Christmas is about of course – oh and presents and definitely prosecco 😊.

I have come up with or found 24 things our naughty little Elves can get up to and included some pictures (below) and a list of what you need to use and/or buy (under December 24 activities).

The pictures I have taken in one spot in the kitchen but I will be moving the little naughty elves around the house.

I have also made little cards to print and put together a shopping list so you can get everything in before December 1st (Below)

Most of the items I bought new and I noted the price I paid on the list. Anything without a price I already had at home. Everything I bought came to approximately £20 and I got the items from Tesco and Home Bargain. You could get them cheaper still if you shopped around.

December Elf’s activities:

December 1 – Elf brings the advert calendar

What you need – Advent calendar

Print – Look who’s Back!

December 2 – Elf plays hungry hippos

What you need – Pack of skittles (use a handful), Kinder Happy Hippos (5 pack)

Print – We Love Hungry Hippos!

December 3 – Elf burst out of cereal box

What you need – Cereal

Print – Make sure you eat up!

December 4 – Elf between two pieces of toast

What you need – Bread toasted

Print – I was cold, but now I’m toasty

December 5 – Elf playing jenga with chocolate fingers

What you need – Chocolate fingers

December 6 – Elf in bathroom sink drawing smilie face with toothpaste

What you need – Toothpaste

Print – Make sure you brush your teeth!

December 7 – Elf drawing funny faces on pictures

What you need – Black sharpie

December 8 – Elf in a roll of toilet roll which they have drawn a funny face on.

What you need – 3 marshmellows, icing stick black, chocolate drops, mini matchmatchers

Print – Do you wanna build a snowman?

December 9 – Elf rainbow magic

What you need – Skittles

Print – Just add hot water for Elf rainbow magic

December 10 – Elf making snow angels in flour

What you need – Flour

Print – Let’s make snow angels!

December 11 – Elf snowball fight with toys

What you need – Scrunched up bits of paper, other toys.

Print – Snowball fight!

December 12 – Elf cooking eggs in the pan

What you need – Haribo/Other gummies shaped like eggs

Print – Eggs anyone?

December 13 – Elf put tape across bedroom door

What you need – tape

December 14 – Elf has hidden candy canes

What you need – Candy canes

Print – Can you find all the candy canes?

December 15 – Elf zip wiring across the room

What you need – string

Print – Weeeeeeeeee!

December 16 – Elf has hidden a treat underneath a cup, but which one!

What you need – paper cups or you could use plastic ones, treat

Print – Find the hidden treat

December 17 – Elf making a sledge and wants help!

What you need – Candy canes, Santa chocolate, 4 finger kit kat, chocolate coins, fredo

Print – Lets make a sledge together

December 18 – Elf on a swing

What you need – Swing and string, or use empty loo roll

December 19 – Elf hanging from the letterbox with Christmas card from Elf

What you need – Christmas card

December 20 – Elf making Christmas biscuits

What you need – large biscuits, icing tube, laces, dolly mixtures, haribo

Print – Lets make a Christmas biscuit

December 21 – Elf in a bath of balloons

What you need – Balloons, black pen

Print – Find me and pop the balloons

December 22 – Elf toasting a marshmellow over a candle

What you need – Marshmellows, candle, cocktail stick, chocolate digestives

Print – Lets make s’mores

December 23 – Elf made a gingerbread house

What you need – 5 pieces of bread, Jar of ginger, gingerbread house (optional)

Print – Hey, I made a gingerbread house!

December 24 – Elf leaves Christmas box and goodbye note

What you need – Whatever you fancy, I usually leave some Christmas PJ’s, popcorn, sweets, hot chocolate

You will also need to print the Elf Shopping List and the Elf Print Cards 1 and Elf Print Cards 2

Why I put Christmas On A Credit Card This Year!

I know you must be thinking I have gone crazy, and maybe I have, but bear with me while I explain myself!

For years and years, I have never really known the true cost of Christmas, I mean does anyone? Even now with my budget I still find myself spending a little bit here and there and with starting Christmas shopping early in the year I always forget what I have brought and end up buying more for people than I had originally budgeted for.

This year I wanted to do something different. My amount saved for Christmas was £500 which I saved for by saving £50 per month from January, which I transferred to my credit card. I have then used the credit card for EVERYTHING to do with Christmas; Cards, presents, decorations, wrapping paper, food – you name it, if it’s been brought for Christmas, it’s gone on the card!

This may be the worst thing I could have done, but I need to know exactly how much I usually spend!

I have done this for two reasons, so that;

1) Future budgets incorporate ALL the costs of Christmas and,

2) To allow me to be more aware of what I am spending

I have bought for everyone I wanted to buy for this year but things that sometimes trip me up is last minute December bargains; cheap wrapping paper, cards, gifts that have been packaged just for Christmas that you can’t buy all year round, Christmas jumpers and ‘party’ wear. Also, Christmas events that you can’t really plan for as you don’t really know what companies are going to put on.

So, to be completely transparent I have listed all my payments made and received to my credit card since I started to use it for Christmas and who it was that I brought for.

It actually looks really scary! But here goes;

21/11 – Payment £-76.76

22/11 – Festive Studio £12.50 (Elf resources)

23/11 – Payment £-35.46

24/11 – Amazon £82.94 (Candy lights for outside, indoor lights, daughter gifts, book, window snowflakes)

25/11 – Asda refund £-17.00

26/11 – Etsy £4.70 (elf masks)

27/11 – Amazon £20.05 (Elf resources)

29/11 – Amazon £57.71 (Nephew’s gifts)

2/12 – Amazon £109.06 (daughter top, mum, trainers and book, scrunchies, me CD and hair conditioner)

3/12 – Amazon £73.90 (Brothers gift, 2 x books for my xmas gift and top for daughter)

3/12 – Amazon refund £-5.24

5/12 – Amazon £25.94 (Bestie gifts)

7/12 – Amazon £85.91 (Dad, Dad’s wife and Brother and Nana & Gramps gifts)

7/12 – Amazon £73.60 (Xmas packaging and choc – packaging was returned)

7/12 – Amazon £24.96 (Gifts for Great Nana)

8/12 – Amazon £12.99 (Grandparents book from Sophie)

9/12 – Amazon £14.72 (Mums present)

9/12 – Payment £500.00

11/12 – Amazon £42.59 (Mums husband)

11/12 – Amazon £36.97 (Gift for Dad and one for daughter)

12/12 – Amazon £46.46 (outside lights for house and outside tree)

14/12 – Amazon £18.98 (Onesie for daughter, car phone holder for me, xmas tree skirt for tree)

14/12 – Amazon £7.92 (Elf Resources)

15/12 – Pets at Home £24.50 (Dog and cats xmas presents)

16/12 – Amazon refund £-4.01

16/12 – Amazon refund £-49.95

16/12 – Game £354.98 (daughters main xmas present)

16/12 – Argos £102.96 (daughters main xmas present)

16/12 – Pets at Home £27.00 (dog xmas groom)

16/12 – Pets at Home £15.00 (dog xmas groom deposit)

16/12 – Amazon £49.61 (Daughter and Dad)

16/12 – Post Office £33.20 (Posting cards and gifts)

16/12 – River Island £40.00 (daughter xmas party dress)

16/12 – Next £10.00 (mum xmas plate present)

17/12 – Argos Refund £-24.99

18/12 – Petrol Station £24.00 (Teachers wine)

Ok, so not going to lie, this list is a shock. I know I have made a huge mistake and it makes me really sad to see all the gifts I have brought with no thought to my budget or my finances. I spent a total amount of £1433.15 against a budget of £500 so that’s £933.15 over budget!!!!

Let me just say that again … That’s £933.15 OVER BUDGET!

I know that’s really bad but considering all that badness, the lessons I have learnt in doing this are huge.

Firstly, I have learnt that the £500 budget I set was only just enough to cover the cost of my daughter’s presents and not everything else which I buy for. Not sure why I have done it like this, but I am guessing I did it because hers is my biggest and most important expense at Christmas, so I always make sure I have got enough for her.

And secondly, very stupidly I have realised that I need a budget for everything else! What I spent on house lights and elf on the shelve resources wasn’t even in the budget and yet that’s £150 not accounted for!!

Let’s just say lots of lessons learnt!!

Lesson 1 – I have made an excel spreadsheet for a complete budget for Christmas with EVERYTHING on

Lesson 2 – I am going to increase the monthly debit to my Christmas sinking fund from £50 a month to £84 to cover for everything I need, plus a little extra just in case. This will give me an overall budget of £1000.

Maybe this wasn’t the best idea but I really want to understand myself financially and this exercise has allowed me to see all my many weaknesses in spending, organisation and planning so this is something I can now use to improve myself. And I will. The credit card definitely has no place when your trying to pay off debt and work within a budget.

Thanks for reading

Heidi x