So you save up all year, you diligently make your Christmas budget, and you do your best… but somehow every year you end up spending more than you planned.  How does that happen?  Here are my top 10 holiday budget busters.

10. Tips: I certainly don’t budget larger tips, yet I find the desire to leave big fat tips around this time of year.  Especially at my regular places.  This can really add up quick.

9. Decorations:  Lights, garland, ornaments, ribbons, bows… it’s pretty hard to over do it when it comes to Christmas decorations.  This one is tricky for two reasons, first when setting up the holiday budget it’s an easy thing to forget.  Secondly, you probably haven’t gotten out your decorations yet, so you don’t know that the cat chewed through the cords to all the lights.

8. Cooking:  Christmas cookies, pies, ham… if you cook, you will be doing more of it this time of year.  Whether it be for the pot luck at work, a little something for the party you are attending, or a full blown Christmas dinner.  Those extra dishes add up.  If you are not careful they might push your grocery budget over the top.

7. Shipping: When you are shopping online you expect some shipping charges, and can still back out if you realize they are unreasonable.  But what about those gifts you have to mail yourself?  What happens when that $40 gift end up costing $25 to ship?   It’s hard to back out when the gift is ready to go you just waited 45 minutes in line at the post office.  It can be a real budget buster.

6. Unexpected gifts:  Maybe your neighbor brings over a small gift and you feel the need to reciprocate.  Or the office pool goes around for a coworker who is having a hard time.  The one that always gets me is when I’m shopping for someone on my list and I come across the perfect gift for someone who is not on my list.  It’s hard to pass that by.

5. Forgetfulness:  The holidays are crazy.  It’s very easy to forget to enter spending into the budget, or forget that you already bought someone a gift.  You are at the store full of holiday spirit and see a great gift for one of the kids, but then when you get home you realize that you just went over budget.  ooops.  It’s hard to keep track of everything.

4. Unrealistic expectations:  So you thought you could find something for your Mom for $25, but you can’t.  Now what?  Thought you could tell your cousin you don’t want to exchange gifts this year but then chickened out?  Unrealistic expectations will get you every time.

3. The perfect gift:  Ever have someone’s Christmas present bought, and then come across the most perfect gift in the whole wide world?  How can you not buy it?  Or you find the perfect gift but it’s twice what you were planning on spending.  I’m fighting this one this year.  In past years, we buy the perfect gift by saying “Well, it’s Christmas!” But this year, the perfect gift might just have to stay on the shelf.

2. Fairness:  This year I’m making an effort to ignore fairness when it comes to the kids.  I’ve spent the same dollar amount on both kids, but my son has way more presents.  Toys for two year olds just cost less than stuff for 7 year olds.   It’s very tempting to spend more than the budgeted amount on my daughter to try to even up the gifts.  But fairness doesn’t end with kids.  If you know your brother usually spends about $50 on you, it’s hard to only spend $20 on him.  It doesn’t seem fair.

1. Sales:  Funny that sales end up being the number one budget buster.  But wow, with the sales they are advertising right now, it’s hard not to get caught up.  You go to a store offering some great sale with the intention of buying a gift for your dad.  But you spy some great deals on stuff for yourself and end up with a new pair of shoes.  I’m totally guilty of this.  In fact, I’m currently wearing a pair of pants I bought while shopping for my niece.

Bonus Budget Buster

Traveling:  I don’t usually travel during the holidays, but I can see how this cost could get out of hand.  Especially if your travel plans get changed at the last minute, which seems especially possible this time of year.

What are some of your top holiday budget busters?

pic by: myeralan

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