Keeping Your Pocketbook In Line for the Holidays

Living Well Holiday Survival Guide for Adults on the Autism Spectrum coverLinda’s Story: I know I spend too much on people for the holidays, but I have a hard time processing information and if someone asks me for something I just give it to them and then . . . Last year my son asked me for a new laptop for Christmas. I said “yes” before I realized that I just didn’t have the money for it. A friend suggested I set up a budget and that has helped me to decide how much to spend on everyone in advance.

Don’s Story: I have a limited budget but discovered several years ago that many people prefer getting a handwritten note or small handmade gift from me to an expensive store bought present. So every year I make a small gift for people. Last year I made ornaments for everyone out of shells I gathered at the beach and this year I plan to make a picture frame out of unique recycled items.

Jeff’s Story: I used to buy gifts for everyone in the office and everyone in my neighborhood. I didn’t think about it. I just did it. There were people I didn’t even really know that I would spend $20 or $30 on.

Money Tips

  • It might sound ridiculously simple, but you need to know how much money you have and how much your expenses cost you each month. Do not spend more money on the holidays than you have left over after all of your monthly expenses are paid for. For help with your budget see the worksheet below.
  • Ask yourself the question “Do I need to buy a gift for this person or would a card or handwritten note suffice?” Use the gift planning worksheet at the bottom of the Shopping Challege page to help you determine who to buy gifts for.
  • If you are one of those people who automatically spends or loses cash, don’t carry it with you. Use a debit card or only bring just enough cash to buy specific items you have pre-planned.
  • Make an agreement with like-minded friends and colleagues to NOT spend money on each other during the holidays. Many people feel overwhelmed and financially stretched during the holidays and would appreciate permission to opt out with you.

The following basic worksheets are for those folks who don’t already have a budget and would benefit from knowing how much they have and how much they can comfortably spend.

Step #1 Figure out your monthly income.

Your Monthly Income


List your monthly net income to the right (that’s the amount after taxes and other items have been deducted from your check. Add more income sources if necessary).









Total monthly income (add all income sources from above)





Step# 2: Figure out your regular monthly expenses

Regular Monthly Expenses


Household items
Car payments
Gas for car
Other car expenses
Total credit card payments
Total medication costs
Health insurance
Home insurance
Auto insurance
Total Expenses (add all totals in right column)

Step#3 Determine how much money you have after your expenses:

Total monthly income

(from step #1)

Minus total monthly expenses

(from step #2)

Equals total left over to save or spend (this is the amount you can budget for the holiday expenses =

Step #4 Make a list of all estimated additional holiday expenses

Additional Holiday Expenses Total holiday expense budget (from step #3)



Gifts (add total from “The Gift Planning Worksheet”)
Supplies for specific traditions
Food for special meals at home
Travel Expenses
Hotel (include tips when relevant)
Gas for car
Other Expenses (list below):
Total holiday expenses (this number should not exceed  your total holiday expense budget.)

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