ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The Christmas season is underway and between travel and gift giving, it can be expensive.
However, there's often a big difference between what we plan to spend and what we actually spend. That's where a budget can come in handy.
"Well, that is the wet blanket. That's the cold water that gets thrown on us when we're looking at all the great things that are on sale," Julie Wheeler with the Better Business Bureau laughed. "We all need to have a budget and try to stick to it because boy, we don't want to be miserable all winter come January and February trying to pay off these bills."
The good news is 50 percent of Americans say they're happier when they plan and budget for their holiday spending in advance, but nearly 40 percent report not actually setting up a holiday budget.
"Setting your budget is all about how much you make and how much your regular expenses are," Wheeler said. "You don't want to go so far overboard that you have a hard time paying your bills and you don't want to run up a credit card debt because then you're running a high interest on it."
On that note, 63 percent of Americans say they don't plan to use a credit card this holiday season.
Even with a plan though, 70 percent of Americans are still stressed about the upcoming holiday season and 32 percent say it all centers around holiday finances.
"I think it is a strain and a stress," Wheeler said. "People want to do the best we can for our loved ones, but if you're in a position where that puts a big financial strain on you, it can make the whole season miserable."
She added being honest about the constraints on your wallet can save you from some of that stress.
"People are more open. They don't have a problem saying, 'You know, that really doesn't fit within my budget this month,'" she said.
Simply saying no or suggesting an alternative plan are good ways to stay on budget.
"I think there's a lot of fun things you can do that don't cost anything," Wheeler suggested. "You can go drive around and look at lights in neighborhoods; have people over to your house for something small and less elaborate. You don't have to go out to a big dinner. You don't have to do huge things. Those are great too but we have to have a balance of what we do."
She said budgeting for Christmas is a personal process, but a good place to start is by looking at your expenses last year. Ask yourself if you liked how much you spent or was it too much? That'll give you an idea as to where you need to make your adjustments this year.
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