The average American spends nearly $1000 on gifts during the winter holiday season, according to the The National Retail Federation.
But did you budget $1000 to spend on gifts this year? Probably not, if you’re like the majority of the 350 people we recently polled about holiday budgeting.
It’s Never Too Late to Plan Your Holiday Gift Budget
The average American ends the winter holiday season with $1000 of new debt, which typically takes five or six months to fully pay off.
The five main reasons people end up with so much debt are:
- Not saving money ahead of time specifically earmarked for the holidays.
- Putting off buying gifts until the last minute, and then buying whatever’s available.
- Being overly generous and splurging on gifts for loved ones.
- Not creating a list of gift ideas.
- Not tracking spending during the holidays.
The good news is many of those debt-traps are easy to avoid. Here’s how.
Make a List and Check It Twice – In a Spreadsheet
Even if you didn’t budget ahead for this year’s holiday giving, you can still take control of your spending. The best way to do this is by deliberately planning the gifts you’re going to give before you go shopping.
And the best way to do that is totally Santa-approved: make a list and check it twice.
The best way to take control of your holiday spending is by planning your giving in a list before you go shopping.
Many studies show that the simple act of planning your spending before you go shopping can help you save a tremendous amount of money and help prevent debt.
- It allows for comparison shopping (link to tools).
- It limits spontaneous and often wasteful purchases.
- It helps you understand how much you’d potentially be spending, but before you spent it.
There are dozens of ways to make a holiday shopping list. We prefer a Google spreadsheet for the following reasons:
- It’s easy to share – great for parents shopping for kids.
- Works well with Google Keep Chrome plugin (more on that below)
- Easy to format.
- Easy to export into a doc or other list format.
- Easy to run reports and visualize spending.
- Tags and categories make it easy to filter spending.
- Goes with you anywhere – lives in the cloud with apps and more.
- Makes summing gift costs easy and kind of fun!
Automated Holiday Gift Planner Spreadsheet from Tiller Labs
This spreadsheet is designed for Google Sheets powered by Tiller Money.
Tiller automatically imports your daily credit and debit card transactions into Google Sheets. As you buy gifts, those transactions will appear in your transaction history sheet.
As you tag each gift transaction with the gift recipient’s name, the total spent on them will auto-update in the “Spent” column of the Gift Planner. You can also see how much is left for each person in the “Budget Available” column.
Simple Gift Tracker Spreadsheet
To help organize and plan your holiday gift-giving, we’ve created a simple and free Gift Tracker Spreadsheet.
It helps you plan and organize your giving by the recipient, the gifts you want to give them, a link to the website selling the gift (if you’re shopping online), price, and status of the gift.
The status shows if the gift is an idea, if it was ordered, and if it was wrapped, shipped, and delivered.
The spreadsheet also includes a budget pivot to help track your spending total, and a recipient total to see how many gifts you’ve selected per person.
And since it’s a Google Spreadsheet, it’s super easy to customize.
→ Get the Gift Tracker Spreadsheet here. (Note you’ll need to copy it into your own Google Drive account to edit it.)
Tip: Use Google Keep to Capture Gift Ideas as You Browse & Easily Copy Into Google Sheets
Google Keep is Google’s spiffy note-keeping app. One of the best things about Keep is that it’s connected to your Google Sheets and Docs account, so you can easily copy notes into whatever spreadsheet or document you’re working on.
“With the Google Keep Chrome Extension, easily save the things you care about to Keep and have them synced across all of the platforms that you use — including web, Android, iOS, and Wear. Take notes for additional detail and add labels to quickly categorize your note for later retrieval.”
Keep includes a Google Keep Chrome Extension. The extensions make it super simple to save gift ideas as you’re browsing the web. You can also use it as you’re out shopping in the real world.
Save your gift ideas in Keep, and then copy them into the Gift Tracker Spreadsheet.
Consider Reviewing What You Spent Last Year
One of the best ways to plan this year’s budget is by reviewing what you actually spent on holiday gifts last year.
Review your credit card and bank account statements from last year to see what you spent. For more control, export these statements as CSV files and import into Google Sheets or Excel.
Once your transactions are in a spreadsheet, you can categorize, tag, filter, and create reports to see exactly what you spent on presents, entertainment, holiday hosting, and travel.
(Of course, it’s far easier to do this in a Tiller-powered Google spreadsheet.)
You might just see that your $500 budget is only half of what you spend last year. In that case, perhaps you might want to read why the best strategy for avoiding holiday debt is to make an overt, intentional spending pact with your friends and family