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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

November 2, 2022 - 9:00am --

You’re making a list and checking it twice and wondering how you  can fit all those holiday expenses into your budget. There are gifts to buy, cards to send, cookies and candy to make, the house to decorate and possibly, travel expenses to consider.

Fear not, there’s a way you can celebrate the season and not break the bank.

Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences educator in Coshocton County, recommends creating a spending plan rather than a budget. “Sometimes a budget seems like it’s tying your hands, but a spending plan really gives us more freedom and gives us more control over what we’re going to spend for the holidays.”

Think about what brings you the most joy

She recommends thinking about it from “a joy factor standpoint.” Consider what brings you or your family the most joy. Divide your spending plan into different categories and figure out where you want to spend the most money.

Food plays a special role in holiday celebrations, either from a religious or family standpoint, Marrison said. It also can create unintended spending as we get busy, run low on time and wind up buying more fast food than normal. If we plan ahead for eating meals at home we can save money.

The costs of decorations can also add up and people may spend more money on them than they realize, Marrison said. “For some people that brings them a lot of joy, and so if that’s something your family really enjoys,” she said, “then you can put more in that category. If that’s something you dread, then maybe you don’t spend as much money on it and you pay attention to some of our other categories.”

Entertainment and travel costs also can sneak up on us during the holidays, Marrison said. Make sure to include the price of airline tickets and mileage on your car as part of your spending plan. If you plan to attend holiday concerts or shows, include those as well.

Christmas cards, and charitable giving

 A joy factor for me personally, is sending Christmas cards. I love to send and receive them as a way to stay in touch with long distance friends and family. I particularly like the letters and messages inside. To save on costs, I often make my own.

In recent years, however, I have cut back on the number of cards I send because of my ability to stay in touch with people over social media throughout the year.

Marrison had some advice on this as well.

“Now that we have social media, really think about what you’re doing as you send that card,” she said. Are you genuinely thinking about the people you’re sending those cards to and conveying your love to them in those cards?”

Often pushed to the bottom of the spending plan is charitable giving, Marrison said. “If you don’t make this part of your spending plan right up front, it can get pushed out, and this is one of the best times of year to be thinking about giving.”

Of course, gift giving is a major consideration. “For some people,” Marrison said, “their entire spending plan is all about the gifts. Just make sure you identify that amount ahead of time and stick to that amount for each person.”

Marrison called the holiday spending plan “a gift to yourself. Think about the numbers you would like to see,” she said. “When you stick to that plan, you’re really giving your future self a gift.”


Laurie Sidle is an FCS educator and 4-H Program Assistant with the OSU Extension office in Wayne County.
This article was previously published in The Daily Record.