Avoiding Ho, Ho, NO!

Cash Max Blog 01

It seemed to us that the stores started putting out their holiday decor extra early this year. Perhaps they're feeling the pressure as more and more holiday shopping moves online. In any event, we don't think it too early – and hopefully not too late – to offer some tips on how to manage your holiday budget. After all, for us a perfect holiday is one in which the credit card bill in January offers no sticker shock.

1) The expectation game

The first lesson is that small gifts can be just as warm and wonderful as that new flat screen TV and that means setting expectations. Be realistic about what you can afford and communicate that to family and friends. Most people are in the same boat as you and letting them know that you're focusing this holiday season on good cheer rather than an expensive gift will likely come as a relief to them. After all, it lets them off the hook as well..

2) What to spend

Set a spending limit… no, really, set a limit. Don't go over it. Many families actually have a system where you can spend so much on kids, so much on in-laws, so much on each other. They communicate this to all family members and it can work out quite well so long as everyone agrees to and sticks to the dollar amounts set. Finally, include ALL the costs associated with the holidays. It's not just about gifts. Include travel costs and entertaining costs and higher grocery costs in your holiday budgeting

3) Get organized

Make a list of who you are buying for. Set a dollar amount limit for each. If you can, plan to set aside some money in October and November that can help pay for your gifts in December. This helps to avoid the above mentioned January credit card sticker shock. There are many apps that can help you manage your holiday shopping lists.

4) Embrace the spirit not the hot gadget

It's tough, we all want to show our love with that absolutely fabulous gift. But if you can't afford it in July, you can't afford it in December. So resist the urge to spend what you don't have… and refer to tip number 2.

5) Be creative

No we don't mean with your holiday gift financing, we mean with your holiday gifts. Leave the expensive bottle of wine on the store shelf and give a hand painted holiday card instead. Forego the cool gadget and give a home-made gift certificate for free babysitting, yard work, dog-sitting, even cooking. For some homemade gift ideas, take a look at, a do-it-yourself website full of step-by-step tutorials for everyone.

6) Secret Santa

Buying gifts for a large family or friends can get expensive even if they are moderately priced. So rather than buying for everyone, buy for one. Everyone draws a single name from the group. They just buy for that person with a pre-set spending limit. There are a lot of websites ( is one) that can help you draw names. The fun with Secret Santa is in the guessing as who drew whose name.

As with all things… including the resolutions that comes with the new year, the trick is deciding what to do and then sticking with it. But spending within your means will mean less stress now and later. And that is one way to ensure a wonderful holiday season for all.