Why do our budgets get out of whack during the holiday season - despite our best efforts?

Most of the time it's not buying gifts that throws everything off kilter; it's...everything else.

Here are a few things to be aware of and their estimated average costs.  

Parties

Social activities tend to ramp up about a month prior to Christmas - and go through the New Year. You might spend money on gifts for party hosts, drinks, food, and taxis.

Cost: To attend three parties, you might spend $40 on three bottles of wine for hosts, $60 on taxis, and $50 on booze. Total: $150

(Note: New Year's Eve party expenses can boost these numbers dramatically, depending on what you do).

Outfits

Your party pants aren't so spectacular any more. If you want to dress to impress, you might want a nice holiday outfit/shoes/coat to attend all those parties in.

Cost: $100

Office Pools

Whether it's "secret Santa" or another type of office pool, the contribution may be small, but it's not to be forgotten; everything adds up.

Cost: $20

Holiday Treats

Filling the house with the sweet smells of baking goodies (to enjoy and give away) is a holiday treat and for many, a tradition. Don't forget the engrossed grocery bills to buy your baking ingredients, as well as other holiday treats that jump out at you - like egg nog, apple cider, Christmas cakes, and other delights.

Cost: $100 

Holiday Meals

If you're hosting a holiday dinner, labor isn't your only valuable contribution; pulling out the stops for a holiday feast is not cheap.

Cost: $100

Last Minute Gifts

Did you forget somebody? Or do you have a new friend who wasn't budgeted for in your gift calendar? Or did you just receive an unexpected gift and feel the need to reciprocate? No matter the case, there's often a few extra dollars required at the last minute.

Cost: $50

Gift Wrapping

From packaging up fresh-baked holiday goodies to give away, to paper gift wrap, gift bags, ribbons, tape, and other gift wrapping accoutrements - expect your budget to bulge a little more.

Cost: $30

Try keeping this cost as low (and environmentally friendly) as possible with these alternative gift wrapping suggestions.

Decorations

Need a tree? Some new decorations? A string of lights? The sky is the limit on what you could spend, depending on how festive you feel.

Cost: $50

The True Cost of the Holidays

The estimated costs of these holiday expenditures is highly subjective and variable. Some might not be applicable to you at all, while others are grossly under-estimated.

The total of these extra estimated holiday expenses above is...drum roll please...$600.

This is in addition to the costs of gifts and other "expected" holiday expenses, which tend to take centre stage - and amount to even more.

$600 - that wasn't in the budget - is nothing to sneeze at.

Adding it all to your Gift Calendar

If you don't have one already, get a gift calendar and incorporate these (and any other foreseeable) holiday expenses into it. If you don't have the slightest clue of what to budget, use these estimates to start with, and track your expenses throughout the holidays. Next year, you'll have an accurate template based on experience to work with.

Happy Holidays!

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Gift Calendars: How to Remember Special Occasions and Stay on Budget

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't do Your Christmas Shopping Early 

Nora Dunn, travel and lifestyle expert guest blogger for leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc. Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services A Straight Talk on Debt blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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