31 Days to a Stress-Free Holiday : Establish a Holiday Budget {and stick to it!}

Money tends to be one of the greatest stress points during the Holiday season (ok, and life!). Christmas, especially, has become such a commercial Holiday. Every year it seems there are more people to purchase gifts for, more people asking for your donation, more events that cost you…more more more. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to establish a Holiday budget…and then stick to it!

A lot of people see the word “budget” and run the other direction. It gives them a negative feeling. The word seems restrictive and negative. Budgets sound stressful. Budgets are the exact opposite of all of these things! Budgets free you up to spend without guilt and worry. Budgets give your money more power. Budgets can often ignite more creativity. Today I’m going to give you some tips and tools on how to create a budget for the Holiday season, and how to stick to it. Like I’ve said many times, you have to do what works best for you and your family. Take these tips and conform them to fit your lifestyle (but don’t bend them just to cheat! haha).

1) First things first, try to take a look at what you spent last year. You don’t have to get too in depth with this. If you don’t have this documented, just take a look at your bank statements from last November and December so you can get a good idea of what you spent. Was that amount comfortable for your budget? Did you overspend? We might be surprised about how much we spent.

2) How much can you afford to spend this year? Be realistic. Factor in your monthly costs. Never neglect your bills and payments during these months so that you can spend a little more on Christmas. Unnecessary debt and late charges are only a burden. You’ll only end up spending more money in the long run and adding to your stress.

3) List all of the categories in which you’ll need to shell out some cash, beyond just gifts. Make sure to include gift wrapping, postage, decor, food, clothing, charitable donations, and travel (we’ll be talking about all of these things during the 31 day challenge!). Decide what your total budget is and then divide that appropriately amongst each category.

4) Plan your gift list well ahead of the Holiday rush to avoid unnecessary spending. This includes family, friends, neighbors, teachers, hostess gifts, and stocking stuffers. Write down everyone you plan to give gifts to and everything you need to make or buy. Plan a few “just in case” gifts as well.

5) Keep good records and stay within your budget. Find a place to keep all of your holiday related receipts. You can even go as far has having a labeled envelope for each category. (I plan on doing that this year so I can go beyond the shoe box full of receipts. Gotta love digging through that mess!). Keep track of everything your purchase. If you overspend in one area, that’s ok. Just deduct that from another category. Once you’ve bought everything on your list, stop shopping! Avoid impulse spending! That’s the part that gets the most of us in trouble.

I’ve created a few printables that you may find helpful in planning and keeping your Holiday budget. Click on the following links to download PDF versions.

holiday budget 2012 pg 1

holiday budget 2012 pg 2

Have a great day!




Fall Front Porch Decor

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous this week! It’s been sunny and cool and much less humid than usual – it gets this Texas girl extra excited about Fall!

I love the traditional colors of Fall – reds, oranges, golds, browns….I think they’re part of what makes Fall feel so warm. I usually stick to these colors and natural elements when I’m working on my Fall decor, especially when it comes to decorating outdoors and on the front porch. There’s just something about seeing stacks of pumpkins and gourds and rows of mums that pumps me full of adrenaline. I just love it all!

My front door is pretty much the same every year. I always start with a leaf garland and Autumn wreath. This wreath was very quick and easy to make. I bought a grapevine wreath and some Fall picks from Hobby Lobby (all 40-50% off) and just stuck them in-between the vines and rearranged until I got the look I was going for.

Last summer, I painted our front door black and frosted the window panes and it made me love having these decorations out there even more. It just made it look so much better.

I think deep down inside, I’m really a country girl. I appreciate rustic, country, pumpkin patch looks.

I gave the pumpkin on the right a little bit of height by flipping over an apple basket for it to sit on.

I bought the mums for $1.38 each at Home Depot. Once it’s time to take down the Fall decorations, I’m going to plant them in my flower beds to see how they’ll do. I didn’t want to spend any unnecessary money on flower pots that will only get used for a couple of months, but I couldn’t leave them as is. I found some left over burlap scraps and ribbon and just created a little sack for them to sit in. It’s definitely an homage to rustic and pumpkin patch, and was free. Win, win!

I found a wooden crate at Michael’s on sale for $9.99 to add a little extra character, interest, and height. I can reuse it once we’ve moved on from Fall. I’m thinking maybe staining it and adding some casters to hold blankets? We’ll see! I love this huge, orange and grey gourd. It was fun to add something different to sit with my typical orange pumpkins.

This guy might look familiar to you. I, of course, had to make my own. I like to change what it says or add little doodles depending on the time of year. I don’t know that I will ever grow old of chalk boards — they’re just too dang cute!

I’m so happy with how it turned out and I had a blast pulling it all together. Have y’all started decorating for Fall yet? Do you go all out at your house? Let me know what you’re up to! I just can’t get enough. It’s a disease. Haha!

I’m also linking up at:

Somewhat Simple

Love and Laundry

The Thriftiness Miss