With Christmas around the corner, it’s time to pay extra attention to the budget to avoid going overboard with spending. There are so many things we want to buy as gifts for loved ones, and even ourselves. The only way to keep your holiday shopping affordable, and not something that will put you into (more) debt is to account for it in your budget.

How to Prepare Your Budget for Christmas

Being organised is your best approach to your Christmas finances and adjusting your budget. Here’s how to approach the holiday season and make the most out of your money when you’re buying presents and food.

Figure out What you Need to Buy

The first thing most people are concerned with at Christmas is presents. They will probably cost you the most out of everything, especially if you have a big family or many people you want to buy for. Help yourself by making a list of those who you must buy for. These are your nearest and dearest friends and family, and probably people you’ll see over the holiday period. If you’ve had gift ideas, add them to the list as well. This means you’ll be able to order things in advance and potentially save money.

There are decorations to be considered in your Christmas planning. You will probably need a tree and any other sparkly trinkets that give your home a seasonal feel. If you don’t have any hosting duties or visitors over Christmas you can probably get away with minimal decorations. Don’t forget wrapping paper, tape, cards and labels for presents.

And then there’s food, which is particularly important if you’re hosting a party or dinner. It pays to buy as much as you can ahead of time. If it can be frozen – like a chicken or turkey – and you have the room, get them. Don’t be running around to multiple stores searching for things you could have bought early or pre-ordered (like a ham).

One more thing that isn’t always applicable is travel. You might have travel plans over the holiday season. Book in advance, and avoid paying too much for travelling on popular dates. A lot of people travel domestically and internationally at Christmas, and a short interstate trip to see family can cost you a couple hundred dollars per person.

Allocate a Portion of your Savings to your Christmas budget

Now that you have an idea of what you need and a rough idea of how much it will all cost, you can start saving for it. Keep track of your Christmas savings separately to your everyday money and savings. For example, if you contribute $100 each pay to your savings, consider taking a portion of that and placing it in a Christmas-specific fund.

Your personal savings won’t grow at the same rate for a little while, but you won’t have to break out the credit card at all in December.

Holidays can be stressful. They cost a lot and they seem to go by so fast. Sitting in front of a pile of ripped wrapping paper come Boxing Day, and dreading your credit card bill, is not the way you enjoy Christmas. Approach it with proper organisation and a well thought-out of budget.