How to Establish a Holiday Budget Together

Discussions about money can quickly become heated for couples. For many of us, these conversations aren’t just about finances; they’re about power, responsibility, and security.

During the holiday season, things can be particularly dicey. You may both hold different ideas of what you “need” to buy or do during this time of year. You may disagree about who you need to buy gifts for. And it’s all too easy to overspend.

The best way to avoid conflict and stay on the same page is to be proactive: set a holiday budget together.

Take a look at last year.

This is a great starting point. You can find expenses you may have forgotten. You can see where you overspent. And you can remember events that you enjoyed and want to attend again.

Divide your budget into categories.

There are so many things we spend money on during the holiday season beyond gifts – a Christmas tree, gelt, decorations, travel, event tickets, family meals, charitable donations, and so on. Make a list, then allocate money to each category.

And there’s one easily overlooked category I want to make sure you include: “us” time.

This time of year can get hectic with loved ones making greater demands on your time. Don’t lost track of one another in the stress. Set aside the time and money to be alone together during the holiday season.

Make a gift list.

You’ve established a budget for the gift category. Now get into the details: who do you need to buy a present for? Family members, friends, co-workers, bosses, vendors, teachers – there are many people in your life you may want to give to this season. Come to a couple’s answer about who you will give to and then decide on the budget for each gift.

Track your spending.

There is a wealth of phone apps that empower you to track spending. You can also use good old-fashioned pen and paper. The key is to make sure you record everything. You can verify this by checking your credit card or bank statements regularly to ensure they match up with what you’ve tracked.

Prone to overspending? Not terribly good at tracking your spending? Go cash-only for the holiday season. Take out the amount you need. Divide it into envelopes for each category. And use only this money to make your holiday-related purchases.

Start planning for next Christmas.

Yes, already. This is particularly valuable if you’re feeling tight on funds this year. If you save throughout the year in a Christmas savings account, you won’t have the same worries, and you can better enjoy the season together.

Stay committed to the plan.

This process only works if you stick to it! It can be tempting to ignore parts of the budget or hide purchases if you are upset about part of the plan.

Don’t do it. That will only lead to more conflict.

Instead, talk about it and come to a couple’s answer. Be honest if you make a mistake – and be understanding if your partner errs.

Remember, you are in this together. And in the end, the goal is to enable both of you to enjoy the holiday season.

Need help? Reach out to a Delaware relationship therapist for guidance.

Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803