Always Track Your Holiday Spending

One sure way to blow your holiday budget is to avoid tracking what you spend.

This may sound like common sense, but really, it’s not.

Many people do shopping for multiple people at once, often having a list of multiple things for those people.  Unless you are uber-prepared and know exactly what every item is going to cost before you buy it, then you will probably be doing shopping in the following fashion:

  1. Gift 1 for Person A
  2. Gift 1 for Person B
  3. Gift 2 for Person B
  4. Gift 1 for Person C
  5. Gift 2 for Person A

And it goes on and on….

Even if you walk into the mall with a person-by-person budget, unless you track your spending immediately after making a purchase, you will go over.

I guarantee this.

I often go on a power-shopping spree for my wife, trying to get all of my buying done at once.  Since I usually get a few different things, I’ve burned myself more than once by underestimating what I spent.

I’ll set off with a budget of, say, $200, go in and spend $60 at the first store, then $40 at the second.  After spending $30 at the third, if I haven’t written down exactly what I’ve spent, I’ll start forgetting about sales tax and oh crap, it completely slipped my mind that I got a stocking stuffer at the second store that really made it $47.  By the time I get to the fifth store, I’ll have a general idea of what I spent, but once I get home, the total amount is a surprise, and not one that keeps me within budget.

My advice is to take a small notepad, or use your smartphone, and take a running total of what you’re spending on each person.  With time in short supply, it may seem like you can’t afford the time to stop after each store, but I can assure you, that from a budget standpoint, you can’t afford not to.

What tips do you have to stick to your holiday budget?