Stay out of holiday debt with this budgeting spreadsheet

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Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ & former Managing Editor, Growth

Hanna Horvath is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and former managing editor for growth at Policygenius. She helped produce the Easy Money newsletter. She passed her exam to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in November 2020.

Hanna's work has appeared in NBC News, Business Insider and Inc. Magazine. She is regularly quoted in top media outlets, including CNBC, Best Company and HerMoney. She has also appeared on the Money Moolala podcast and All's Fair podcast.

Prior to Policygenius, Hanna wrote for KNBC in Los Angeles and WNBC in New York. When she isn't writing, she's (often) running, (usually) cooking and (sometimes) doing photography.

Published November 11, 2019|1 min read

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The holidays don’t come cheap. According to a survey by MagnifyMoney, people added $1,230 in debt during the 2018 holiday season.

There are plenty of tips and tricks to make the holidays more affordable, but using a budget is the easiest way to stay on top of your spending.

You can download this one and personalize it to fit your holiday plan.

Here’s how to use the spreadsheet.

  1. Enter your estimated holiday budget, or how much you have allocated for the season. Review old bank statements to estimate big expenses.

  2. Add your fixed(ish) expenses (like your hotel stay or flight to visit family) and allocate how much you’ll be spending on unfixed expenses (like gifts). Don’t forget about extra required costs like car rentals and groceries.

  3. Enter your purchases as you go. Start your shopping as early as possible to avoid last-minute stress (and spending).

Budgeting tips for the holidays

Write out a gift list before you shop. A premade list will help you stay on track and under budget. It will also remove stress from the whole holiday shopping experience.

Keep an eye on your credit limits. Putting purchases on plastic is a good way to rack up rewards points (and maintain some liquidity), but be extra mindful of your balance. You could easily overspend. Plus, the closer you come to a card’s credit limit, the worse your credit utilization ratio (the amount of credit you use versus the amount of credit available to you). A high credit utilization ratio can hurt your credit score.

Watch out for scams. Charity fraud runs rampant during the holiday season, as there’s typically a big spike in giving at the end of the year. Here’s how to stay on the lookout for scams.

How to start saving for the holidays

Start saving as soon as possible (even as early as the new year). One way to save is through a high-interest savings account, which grows your money at a fixed rate.

Don’t know where to start? Here are 25 ways to start saving right now.

Image: Lee Walters