It’s been a fun summer here in the Club Thrifty household. Although we have gone on a few trips to places like Canada, Las Vegas, and the West Coast, we have spent the majority of our summer days working, playing in the yard, and lounging at the neighborhood pool. This summer’s holidays have also been fairly frugal, as well. On Memorial Day weekend, for example, we stayed home and cooked out. Then, on the 4th of July, we participated in our neighborhood’s “Bike Parade” and saw some free fireworks at my uncle’s house.

But all that frugal goodness is about to go out the window as soon as Fall hits. Why? Because the holidays are coming. Brace yourselves!

How the Holidays Ruin Frugality

This realization hit me the other day when my daughter asked what she should be for Halloween. Oh, and when she started a running Christmas list to keep in her bedroom. {In case anyone is wondering, my daughters want about $1,000 worth of Shopkins for Christmas. Is anyone else suffering through the Shopkins craze right now?} It’s not that we buy them that much, or that they really ask for that much, either. But the thought of expensive holidays hanging over my head has been mostly forgotten about until now. Here’s how I see the next few months panning out:

  • Halloween – I’ll probably make some cheap costumes or buy some off Craigslist for less than $20. But in addition, I’ll have to purchase candy for the hundreds of monsters and princesses that come to my door. Estimated total cost: $60
  • Thanksgiving – Although Thanksgiving is almost always on the cheaper side, I still end up spending a little money on food and travel for our family get-together. Estimated total cost: $50
  • Christmas – Dear Lord, this one hits hard. Not only do we buy the kids some modest gifts, but we also purchase gifts for most of the kids in our family. Meanwhile, we almost always travel out-of-state to see another part of our family for the holidays. Even though we save where we can, it all adds up! Bah – humbug. Estimated total cost: $1,000
  • Valentine’s Day – Greg and I don’t buy for each other on Valentine’s Day, but the kids do need cards and favors to hand out at school. Sometimes their school has a party too, which typically means sending cookies, brownies, or small toys.  Estimated total cost: $30

And keep in mind, all of this is in addition to birthdays, our end-of-year charitable giving, and any other splurges we hoped to make. Simply put, it gets to be a lot.

How to Deal with Holiday Spending Burnout

Even though all of these expenses seem to pile on at the end of the year, I don’t really sweat it. The fact that the holidays make frugality difficult is a known fact, and that makes it easy to plan ahead. Here are some steps you can take to get through the holidays with your frugal mindset intact:

Budget, budget, budget.

The fact that you know these holidays are coming means you can budget and plan accordingly. It’s not like when your furnace dies or your car breaks down on the side of the road! If you use a zero-sum budget or any other type of budget, it makes sense to budget for each holiday as it approaches. And if you’re not sure how much you need to spend, estimate and shoot high.

Start saving now.

For big holidays like Christmas, I typically save all year. That is usually the best way to prepare yourself for an event you know will cost several hundred dollars. As for me, I’ve been saving $100 per month for Christmas in a targeted savings account since April. Once November and December get closer, I’ll cash those funds out and use them to start stocking up on basic gifts for the kids in my family.

Set limits…and stick to them!

Setting limits is essential if you want to keep your holiday spending under control. We typically budget around $150 per kid for Christmas, plus $20 each for nieces, nephews, and other family members. With a large family, that adds up quick…but it would add up a lot faster if we didn’t set limits for each individual gift. The bottom line: Setting boundaries and sticking to them will help keep your holiday budget under control.

In order to rule the holidays (as opposed to letting them rule you), the most important thing you can do is plan ahead. And feel free to ignore any holidays you don’t find important. Just because everyone at work is bringing home a stuffed teddy holding a balloon on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

Are you saving for the holidays already? How do you prepare your finances for holiday spending?