A Holiday Budget Q&A with The Budget Mom, Kumiko Ehrmantraut: Part II


Kumiko Ehrmantraut is the owner and creator of The Budget Mom. She started working in the finance industry in 2011, shortly after graduating college with a Finance Major. She obtained her Accredited Financial Counselor® designation in 2015 and is passionate about financial literacy. When she is not running her blog you can usually find her behind a camera lens, riding motorcycles with her husband, or coloring with her 4-year-old son. She currently resides in Spokane, Washington.

Check out part I of our Q&A with The Budget Mom!

What suggestions would you have for parents who may not have the budget for as many gifts as they’d like to buy?

Sometimes your budget doesn’t allow you to buy everyone a gift, and that’s OK. Talk with family members and see if they would be open to drawing names this year. Different methods of gift giving can save you a ton on your holiday budget, and it will reduce some of your gift buying guilt.

My husband has a huge family, and I love the fact that they do a drawing every year for Christmas. Drawing names, rather than buying a gift for everyone, allows me to make handmade cards for people still, but I don’t feel obligated to get everyone a gift.

Giving a gift doesn’t mean it has to come from a store. For the last three years, I have gotten by with doing homemade gifts. Making your gifts makes them special and unique. One year, I learned how to make homemade soap, and it was a blast. I made vanilla oatmeal soap (with real oatmeal for exfoliation), and it was a hit. When my son was little and still eating baby food, I collected all of his empty baby food jars and made personalized candy jars.

The simple truth is, if you don’t have the money for it, don’t get it. It comes down to prioritizing. If gift giving is at the top of your priority list, look for other ways to save within your budget. Maybe do something simple for the food, such as mini sandwich appetizers or a hearty soup.

What are your top 3 keys to successfully planning and budgeting throughout the holidays?

1. Develop a financial holiday plan you can stick to it. One thing that has helped me develop a holiday plan is by looking at what I spend last year during the holiday season. Search for areas that you spent more than you planned. Are there areas where you would feel comfortable cutting back. With this knowledge in hand, create a budget where you have clear boundaries. For example, if you are buying gifts for both of your children, write next to their names the amount you plan on spending on that one particular child.

2. Save money where you can. If you realize that you simply don’t have enough money to cover your expenses in your holiday budget, start going down the list and start cutting out names or amounts. One way to make sure you stay within your budget is thinking about what you want to spend rather than what you want to buy.

3. Have an all-cash holiday budget. Nothing will keep you more accountable than having an all-cash budget. Create your holiday budget early and start tucking small amounts of cash into envelopes for every category in your holiday budget. Set the limit you would like to spend for each category, fill up each envelope with cash, and then when that money is gone, you can’t spend any more money for that category. For example, I start planning my holiday budget in September. Once I know how much I want to budget for each category, I start filling the envelopes with cash. It’s an awesome way to keep everyone on the same page and to keep each other accountable.

Are there any practical tools that you recommend like money management apps or software?

If you want to start an all cash budget, I highly recommend using Carrie Elle’s budget binder. It’s a fantastic, fun way to organize your money and track your spending. I have been using it for the last three months, and I love it. You can find more information about this budget system here.

If you would like to manage money online via your phone, then YNAB (You Need a Budget) is another powerful money management system that I recommend. It’s easy to use, gives you a clear picture of where your money is going, and allows you create a budget that’s right for you. Whether you budget monthly, by paycheck, or any other pay schedule, this system is perfect for any situation. You can find more information about YNAB here.

The truth is, having a plan for your money during the holiday seasons is better than no plan at all. A simple pen and piece of paper will get the job done.

Any other thoughts or suggestions?

Most people think that it’s too late to start a holiday budget. With Christmas right around the corner, some people give up before they even start. I want to encourage anyone reading this, if they haven’t already, to sit down with your family and create a budget this holiday season. Hold yourself accountable, and stick to it. Getting through the holidays without having to go into debt is a rewarding feeling. It’s never too late to start.

Thanks, Kumiko! We appreciate you sharing your expertise!

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