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6 Gotchas to Budget for This Season

4 Minute Read

One of the biggest problems with Christmas is how it moves around on the schedule every year. You never know when it's going to be and when it might be coming and then BOOM! There it is at your front door saying, "Hey, I'm Christmas. Buy stuff!" Such a pain.

But, wait a minute … Christmas is on the same day every year? December 25? Who knew?

Somehow, too many of us are caught off guard year after year by Christmas, Thanksgiving and all the activities over the next couple of months. The holiday season somehow surprises us like a hidden whoopee cushion under the love seat. But instead of a startle and a red face, we end up with hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in debt following us into the next year.

You already know you need to save for Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities throughout the year. That's Dave Ramsey 101. But we all have those things that, no matter how hard we try, sneak up on us. These are the little things that can be easy to overlook.

Here's a list of "gotcha" items to include in your budget today, if you haven't already:

Uncle Billy is waiting on his Christmas card. And unless you plan on driving to Toledo to give Uncle Billy his card, you're going to need a stamp. Plus about 30 more for all the other friends and family you plan on sending a card to. Even though they're less than 50 cents each, the cost can add up quickly.

Wrapping Paper
A pair of velvet slippers in a brown bag just doesn't have the same effect. You can do so much better than that. Go the extra foot and buy some nice Christmassy wrapping paper. While you're at it, go ahead and include some extra cash so you can buy it on sale the day after Christmas so it's waiting for you next year.

There's your work party, your wife's work party, your kid's school party, your church party, the neighborhood party … A Thanksgiving potluck here, another there. During the holiday season, you probably need a project manager just to keep track of all your parties. And whether you're bringing cookies, decorations or gifts, you'll still need to know what you should expect ahead of time.

Black Friday
The clouds approach, and Black Friday looms on the horizon. It will be here before you know it. Do you care? And, if you do, are you ready? We all know better than to go out and buy something just because it's on sale. But if you're in the market for a new TV or a laptop or one of the thousands of items that are usually marketed on Black Friday, then you might be able to save a lot of money.

Going to see the parents? The in-laws? Or maybe you're taking a vacation that doesn't involve awkward dinner conversations? If you're traveling this holiday season, don't forget about gas, snacks, hotels, checked baggage fees, rental cars and anything else you might need to get around.

You can't possibly forget to budget for food, can you? Let's hope not. But while you might not forget the bread, milk and cereal, you also need to think about the seasonal food you might be buying, like eggnog, ham, turkey and fruit cake. Actually, save yourself a little money and don't buy the fruit cake, unless you just need a colorful centerpiece.

So it's time to make a vow. Let's promise ourselves that, this year, we won't wait until the last minute to take care of the stuff we know is coming. Keep these things in mind while you're out shopping (or procrastinating) this holiday season.

What's one item that always sneaks up on your budget this time of year?