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Holiday Budgeting for the Win

Holidays are as emotionally expensive as they are financially when you’re a couple. There are many decisions about vacations, whose family to visit, how much to spend on coworker presents, etc. To get through holiday financial discussions, pretend you’re getting ready for Monday night football: put on your favorite team’s jersey, make some guacamole, and get ready to discuss and put into play your holiday spending game plan. We huddled with California-based financial advisor Stephen Lovell for tips on setting and orchestrating a game plan.

Sit down to achieve first down

By sitting down to talk with each other about holiday spending, you’re putting your budget into play. During this conversation, you’re setting the rules of the game such as who’s doing what, who’s buying presents for parents and who’s going to shop for holiday travel to one or various destinations. Then set the spending cap for each category. Don’t forget to budget for dinners you’re hosting. They can get pricey and shopping early and with a list, even for food items, can make a huge difference. Even alcohol goes on sale for the holiday season.

After the second down, huddle

Prices change and plays by both family members (teammates) and retailers (opponents), can alter your gift-giving habits. Reconvene to discuss other options. Whether you make it to a second or third down can depend on this vital step.

Remember, a fumble isn’t just financial

You may have bought your significant other or your mom an expensive present they didn’t want. A trip to Hawaii isn’t that great if the person would rather not go during the time frame you selected. For instance, grandparents may want to go to Hawaii in the winter because they already experience warm weather in their Florida retirement home. Also, check in with all your teammates who are buying gifts for that person. Your brother, sister, aunt or uncle may have bought the same present you are considering. You also may save money by chipping in with each other for something beyond your personal budget.

Be wary of injuries on the field

Sometimes things happen that may cause complete strategy changes. A family member may get sick and you have to change flights to another locale or host family dinner yourself. To protect yourself from financial injuries—or just inability to make it to holiday events in the case of an injury—make sure your holiday budget has a little extra padding.

Take a timeout

All sorts of things can happen in both positive and negative ways to change your budget. Never be afraid to call a timeout to reconvene. Your reason for the time could be anything from a bonus at work being smaller to scoring a lot of great deals on presents by searching for promo codes online before shopping. If the latter happens, you can give each other a great gift by making an extra payment on your credit cards. If the former happens, search for promo codes before deciding on alternate presents. ‘Tis the season for a lot of great deals and promotions if you search for them. (See also: Tips for Saving Money Each Month)

Earn extra points

You earn extra points if you actually agree on budgeting items, give a gift of a shared experience, or you really focused on the person’s interests. For instance, buying someone a pastry blender that’s less than $15 and then making a pie with them with a perfect crust can feel like you spent hundreds. In the holiday end zone, you’ll hopefully have good memories of family and an unbroken budget.