Like time-keeping, sensible budgeting doesn’t come very naturally to me—I’ve had to make a conscious decision that I want to be better at making the most of my time and money and then teach myself how to follow through on that decision over the years.
The Christmas season is a funny one for money; whatever budget you’re working with, you’re probably planning on spending something (at least slightly more than you usually would) on gifts. And yet, how often do we really plan what we’re going to buy, how much we’re going to spend, and on what? Isn’t it far more common that we attack the gift-giving issue rather randomly, haphazardly buying things when we’re out and about and then tallying up how much we’ve spent later? (Please, tell me it’s not just me!)
As someone who believes in the power of ethical shopping, though, I wanted to do things differently this year—not only to have a positive impact while giving some great gifts, but also to be conscious of our (rather tight) budget and make sure I’m being intentional about how I spend money.
One great way to make sure you’re getting someone an intentional gift is to actually find out what they’d like. Stockings in particular can be one of those things you buy random filler items for, things that may be funny on Christmas morning, but end up forgotten in a drawer or sent to landfill all too soon. You can, of course, ask people to send you wish-lists via email, create one on Pinterest, or set something up via another platform like Elfster. But for our family, I created a spreadsheet which you can download and use, too, by clicking here. (You can always adapt it for other, non-stocking presents.)
Another resource you might find useful this season (and beyond) is this monthly budget planning spreadsheet. The idea is that you keep receipts for anything that you pay for in cash (you can check your card transactions via online banking), and update the spreadsheet once a week or so with what you’ve spent. There are some formulae in there that will calculate what you’ve spent so far vs. what you entered as your goal amounts, and how much you have left in the budget for that month based on your income etc. The figures I’ve entered in the downloadable template spreadsheet are all just examples—everyone obviously has different expenses and budgets, so you’ll need to adapt the spreadsheet for your own use.
I hope you find them helpful. Let me know if you have any other tips for a smart and intentional approach to finances around this season in particular—I’d love to hear them!