children and baby on floor opening christmas presents

How to Create a Christmas Budget + Christmas Expense Tracker

Here is how to budget for Christmas presents, so you can avoid the stress of money during the holiday season.

Christmas can be a stressful time for those living on a tight income. It’s easy to develop feelings of pressure and guilt during the holidays, which can lead to poor financial decisions. Don’t let buying Christmas presents drag you deeper in debt or steal your peace and joy this Christmas season. This article is about how to create a Christmas budget.

Pressure to Buy Presents

Are you tired of stressing out about money during the holiday season? Feeling pressure to buy presents that you can’t afford? Hoping you don’t drown in debt by the New Year? I am going to lay out some straightforward steps for you to follow this Christmas season to completely transform your holidays.

While Christmas is supposed to be a day to observe our Savior’s birthday, it has turned into a fast-paced, anxiety-ridden season of consumerism, debt, and broken relationships. While we should be focusing on the gift of our Savior’s birth, we mostly focus on fleeting material things. Not that both giving and receiving presents isn’t fun and exciting and good. It can just lead to a lot of pressure, guilt, and financial failures if you don’t budget within your means.

This post is specifically about budgeting for Christmas presents, but many of the same rules can apply to other obligations that you may try to fulfill this December. I will list out the steps to creating a Christmas budget next and then share some really helpful tips after!

How to Budget for Christmas Presents

  1. If you don’t have a budget already, make a zero-based budget to help you get clear on your income and expenses.
  2. Analyze your budget to figure out how much disposable income you have.
  3. Calculate how many months you have left to save for Christmas. Depending on how soon it is, you may want to put financial goals on pause for a short season, so you can save up for this holiday.
  4. Create a savings goal for Christmas presents (and other obligations).
  5. Make a shopping list with all the people you want to buy for and decide how to split the money amongst them (be detailed and specific!).
  6. As you save money for Christmas, keep track of the amount available to spend on presents.
  7. As you spend the money available, keep track of how much you have left to spend.
  8. Stop when you run out of money.

Tips to Help You Budget for Christmas Presents This Year

Here are a few tips to help you with your Christmas budget.

Start saving in January.

Okay, I just wanted to get this tip out of the way because I am assuming that if you’re reading this post, you are way past January and need more helpful tips. However, with Christmas being such a big expense for many families, it is wise to save slowly throughout the year.

In 2022, Americans plan to spend about $650 on Christmas gifts for themselves and family members. I don’t know about you, but I can’t just lay down $650 on gifts at a moment’s notice. Just think ahead, so maybe you can start saving in January for next Christmas! If you want to spend $600 on Christmas presents, you only need to set aside $50 a month throughout the year! That is way more manageable than coming up with $600 in December.

Decide how much you CAN afford, not how much you WANT to afford.

I am guilty of this! I used to figure out who I want to buy presents for and what I want to buy for them to come up with some magic number. Then, I would just hope the money would show up, so I could afford all the presents! That is not how it works. You will end up not having enough money if you budget this way, and you may resort to using credit cards to pay for the Christmas presents. You need to be realistic and use your actual budget to decide how much you can afford.

Buy gifts early.

One lesson I learned this holiday season is to buy gifts early in the year to avoid Christmas marketing campaigns. If you wait till late in the year, you are more likely to fall into temptations to overspend. I really got sucked into all the Black Friday deals happening at the end of November! And while I was out buying gifts for other people, I would throw extra things in the cart for myself! It’s really best to avoid shopping in the midst of the Christmas season if you’re trying to stay within your budget.

Don’t commit to extra things outside of your budget.

Oof, another thing I’m ultra-guilty of… Once your budget is locked in, don’t commit to extra Secret Santa gift exchanges, White Elephants, or other gift obligations.

I know it can be hard to say no, especially if you have a child who will be disappointed, but trust me, the character you will build from denying yourself one thing one year is worth it. I have had to say no to Christmas gift exchanges, and sometimes still do. After one year of not participating, you can decide if you want to fit it into your budget next year or if it’s not actually worth the money. I have found more often than not, it isn’t worth it and doesn’t add to the specialness of the season.

Set your boundaries with family.

It might feel weird saying no to gift exchanges or showing up to a family party with fewer gifts at first. It will take some self-assurance, but set your boundaries and stick with them! You are not responsible for matching the amount someone else spent on you. You are not obligated to make sure any other adult has a good Christmas. Remember, you are only responsible for you and your family.

Don’t sacrifice financial security.

Giving during the holidays is such a blessing to others, but don’t do it at the expense of your family’s financial security. Wait until you are in a financially secure place to give to your fullest generous potential. There’s no shame in practicing frugal Christmases until you get there!


To WRAP up (haha, no pun intended), creating a budget for Christmas presents on a tight income is hard, but spending within your means is essential to avoid using credit cards or making other regretful money decisions. Buying presents is not worth sacrificing your family’s financial security or financial peace. I am preaching this to myself as much as anyone else.

Remember the reason for the season. The greatest gift of all is nothing that is found on this earth — not any present, warm cozy drink, or even time spent with loved ones. God’s Son, Jesus, and his gift of everlasting life is the best gift every single day of life! If you remember that, the people gathered around you will see His light shine through you, and that will be the most delightful gift.

Below I have a couple Christmas expense tracker options to help make this Christmas the sweetest season.

Free Christmas Expense Tracker

I created a simple printable to help you keep track of your Christmas budget and spending. Just add your email to get it sent to your inbox! If you’re looking for something more detailed, check out my Google Sheets Christmas Spending Tracker below.

Google Sheets Christmas Spending + Gift Tracker

A more in-depth tracker, this Google Sheets template makes budgeting for Christmas presents super simple. The template allows you to track the money you save throughout the year as well as gift details, including the recipient, link to the gift, gift status, delivery addresses, and more! The best part about this spreadsheet is that it gives you a clear visualization of your budget and how your spending compares with your budget. It is a game changer that will make budgeting for Christmas fun and exciting, while also making your goals achievable.

Christmas Spending Tracker Google Sheets Template

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baby playing on the floor with Christmas presents

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