Xmas - How do you budget?

I've always had just a xmas line in YNAB and saved $50/mo.  Then when it comes to this time of year, I either write a list down or create a google spreadsheet to track who I'm buying for and how much I plan on spending. But I do always tend to spend a bit more than I've saved for.

So I'm wondering....

.......maybe I should make Xmas (and Birthday Gifts) it's own major category and then have separate lines for everyone I'm buying for. Including lines for xmas tree, decorations, xmas parties, etc.

What do you? One line for all xmas related stuff? Or many xmas lines to break it out and track?

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    • Kate
    • Joyful Technical Writer 🌴
    • sweet_sunshine
    • 3 yrs ago
    • 2
    • Reported - view

    Hi Ryan! My plan for next year is I am going to have a Christmas section that breaks down my Christmas budget into three categories: Christmas gifts, Christmas Decorations, Everything Else Christmas (like if I want to rent a Christmas movie or give money to my church for a Christmas meal for someone). I'm going to make each category have a final goal that should be met by December 1st and then work with the money I have.

    I would like to keep Birthday Gifts in its own category since I'm constantly using money from that category all year long but breaking it down by person sounds like a lot of work. It's a great idea though and I just wish I had the patience to do that too.

    Like 2
  • If you always spend more than you save, then you aren't saving enough. So sure you can make a line for every person, but that can get cluttered (says someone who has 67 categories). But maybe you just have to accept that even though you save $600/year for Christmas gifts, what you really need to do is save $750 because that's your reality.

    I have a master category called Giving & Celebrating. I've always had a Christmas category and a Birthday & Other Gifts category, but this year I got a bit more granular - I added a Holiday Food category (for when I have to make a dish that serves a ton of people) and a Holiday Stuff category (for seasonal decorations, tableware, etc).

    Like 3
  • Hi, I have 5 Xmas categories, one general and one for each immediate family member.  They each have a monthly save for goal. The general one is a little more tricky to control as it caters for lots of people, whereas the immediate family ones are simple as we carefully plan what we spend on the kids and each other.  The general one is set based on experience from previous years.

    Additionally, as there is no tagging in YNAB I put each persons name in the memo field so I can filter and sort the data if I so choose.

    Category- xmas:general Memo- [Fred]Socks

    I actually export the register then load the csv into excel from where I produce a pivotable of spend and gift by person giving my better half a report of how much spent, by person with a list of gifts.

    She finds this a useful report especially as she will start shopping for next year in the January sales and will continue to pick up bargains throughout the year.

    Like 2
  • I used to have a Category Group for Christmas, with each person as a category within it, but this year I just sort of winged it with one category. I overspent. 😊

    So, I think next year I'll try the more granular approach again. You can save all year into just one category, then move money come November to all the different categories.

    Like 1
  • your current strategy is exactly the same as mine and I've been considering doing the same thing. Although I have broken out individual line items for non-christmas gift giving (e.g., birthdays and mother's/father's day), I've decided not to do that for Christmas for the time being I'll share some of my thoughts on why...

    • I know how much I want to spend on each person - generally $25-50/person and I budget an extra $100 to allow some wiggle room. I like having the ability to spend a little extra to get something they really want or is better quality.
    • I'm a pretty savvy shopper - I shop with the target $ amount in mind and am pretty good at hitting close to that
    • There's a definite 'reset' time - If I overspend in 2017 I have 12 months to reset/readjust for 2018.  Birthdays don't work that way they are dispersed throughout the year and don't have that 'reset'  and for that reason I decided to split all of those out as individual line items.
    • Since most of the shopping is done during a relatively short time, it's easy to keep meter my spending (it also helps that I only have a small number of people to shop for). When I enter christmas gift transactions in YNAB I put the recipient and a brief gift description in the memo field so I can reconstruct where over spending occurred if needed.

    Although I am currently unlikely to add individual gift categories I am considering adding line items for other christmas related expenses similar to Kate - For me these would likely be as follows:

    • Gas - The trip home is usually about 3-4x what we typically spend on gas in a month - in the past I've covered it with vacation funds, but as much as I love seeing family, it's NOT a vacation
    • Food - Mostly road trip related - the round trip drive between our house to my parents' is 24 hours minimum and on top of that we spend a lot of time driving to visit other family/old haunts in the area... That much time in the car means fast food and energy drinks - if only to  have an excuse to get out of the car for a while. Again I usually cover what I can with our 'restaurant' fund but overspending happens which usually is covered with vacation money - I repeat, 36ish hours in a car is NOT vacation.
    • Misc - to cover things we can only get at home (I'm looking at you 8 year aged sharp cheddar) and other misc things we inevitably forget/didn't expect to need
    Like 1
  • I am not very specific but I use info from the prior year to determine how much to save.  If I over-spend, by that I mean that I have to move funds) I will make a goal for January to compensate for next year.  My husband and I also have a discussion about how to allocate the money in October so that we don't just keep upping the ante.  I hope that helps!

  • Mine is very simple. I'm single, have no kids, and I don't host any social events in my small apartment. I have a very large family, but we do a gift exchange for the adults, and I am the Aunt-that-gives-money.  I am able to pretty accurately guesstimate my total Christmas spend and budget a set monthly amount to a Christmas category.

    Rather than use subcategories, I move funds to related areas in my budget at the start of the Christmas season. I moved $200 to my grocery and gracious living categories for food/beverage purchases. I moved $100 to my charitable giving category for the extra donation I like to make at this time of year. The rest of my Christmas transactions -- decorations, gifts, social events -- I will categorize directly to the  single Christmas category.  I save $65 monthly for an annual goal of $800. I expect to have about $100 left over.

  • I just created a funding goal by date. I set a goal of $1000 by November. I just do all my xmas shopping on Black Friday. Done. lol

      • iwaddo
      • iwaddo77
      • 3 yrs ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Orange Rhythm  this sounds like a great idea.


      Are you likely to buy any gifts during the year as you find bargains?  If so, I’d change your goal to $90.90 a month otherwise YNAB will try to make you add more to the budget to compensate, to make sure you still reach $1,000 by November.  This how I budget for Christmas.

      Good luck

      Like 1
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