Each year it happens. December comes and goes, and in January, I’m left looking at the mess that is my budget.
I’m not one of those people who is surprised when Christmas comes every year. I know that I’ll be paying a few hundred dollars for Christmas presents for my husband, kids, and mom. I implement multiple strategies to buy gifts as frugally as possible.
I buy items on sale throughout the year and squirrel them away in my secret hiding place. I set aside a certain amount of money every month in anticipation of buying the rest of the presents in December. I wait and take advantage of Black Friday sales for items I was already planning to buy.
Yet, even with this careful planning, I always find myself in the hole after the whirlwind of December is over.
This year, I vowed to keep track of my expenses and see what black hole was sucking my hard earned money.
It turns out there are several black holes in the month of December.
More Meals Out
My husband and I don’t have a babysitter for our kids, which means we only have “date night” when grandma is in town to watch the kids over Christmas. We usually enjoy two or three date nights while my mom is here for the month of December. Our meals out for our dates run approximately $150 total for the month of December. (We don’t eat out as a family during the year except on birthdays, so when we get our rare date night, we like to eat sushi, which isn’t cheap.)
Our grocery bill increases significantly in December for several reasons.
- We’re attending holiday parties during the month of December and need to bring dishes to pass. Since we go to at least three or four parties, we spend approximately an extra $20 to $30 on this food.
- My mom is with us for a month, so we’re feeding another adult during that time. This adds another $100 to $150 to groceries for the month.
- There are many food items that go on sale during the holiday season that we stock up on. For instance, there is a gluten free pie crust that we love that regularly runs $5 for two. During the holidays, it’s on sale for $3 for two, so we buy enough to last for the entire year. We do the same with the allergen free chocolate chips that we can eat. Then we still get these specialty items throughout the year, but for the lower price than if we bought them all year long.
When my mom is here, we go out and do more things than we do when she’s not here. We take her to some of the tourist sites, and sometimes I go to the movies with her. All told, even though we try to take advantage of free activities, we do pay for some excursions. We spend approximately $100 to $150 on these extra activities.
Because we’re so busy in December running from event to event, we spend more money on gas driving from place to place. We also need to make the two hour drive one way to pick up my mom at the airport and to bring her back at the end of the month. We easily spend an extra $60 on gas, if not more.
Besides buying gifts, do you routinely spend more in December? If so, on what do you spend the extra money? Do you have a plan to set aside money throughout the year on these extra expenses, or do you find yourself struggling financially in January thanks to December’s extra expenses?