Need a Last-Minute Christmas Gift? Here’s How To Budget for It

Smiling young couple buying Christmas presents online using a credit card and a digital tablet.
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Is there someone who just got added to your holiday wish list at the last minute? Whether you’re picking up a present for your child’s teacher or the dog walker, it’s not unusual to get a last-minute addition to your shopping list. 

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What can be trickier is budgeting for this purchase. Follow these tips to ensure a last-minute Christmas gift stays in your budget.

Review Your Existing Holiday Budget

Hopefully, you did not spend every dollar in your existing holiday budget. The general guideline for setting a budget for holiday expenses is to be realistic. You shouldn’t go into debt for any purchases and should be able to buy gifts that fit in the budget, including purchases that may be a bit more expensive than others. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Your holiday budget is likely kept in a separate sinking fund or an envelope dedicated to these expenses. How much do you have left over? If you have, for example, $100 left in your holiday expense budget, you could comfortably put a percentage toward one more person who needs a last-minute holiday gift and still have enough leftover. 

Quick pro tip: Make sure you have a final head count on last-minute Christmas gifts before making any purchases. You don’t want to think you need to buy for only one more person when it turns out you need gifts for three more people. Get a final number and then carefully review your budget to make sure you have enough for everyone.

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See Whether Your Upcoming Expenses Allow for the Purchase

Let’s say you have around $15 left in your holiday expense budget. It’s not much money, especially if you consider tax. You may consider dipping into your general household budget to add $10 on to the gift and give the person a last-minute present worth $25. 

Budgets do vary from household to household and will depend on your expenses. If you find you don’t have enough wiggle room, you may need to get creative with the remaining $15, such as giving a $10 gift card and a nice greeting card. But if you do have a little extra and want to make sure the last-minute Christmas present is nice, consider adding a little extra from your general budget to the holiday expense budget. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Don’t Feel Pressured To Go Significantly Over Your Budget

It’s easy to feel pressured into going over your budget to make sure nobody is forgotten on the holiday wish list. You may not want the person you’re buying a gift for to think you’re cheap. However, you also don’t want to find yourself in unnecessary credit card debt or taking on a second job due to holiday spending either.

If you don’t have much money left for a last-minute gift, give what you can and give from the heart. Enclose a handwritten letter inside a card to the person you’re gifting to at the last-minute thanking them for their hard work. Include a small token of appreciation with it, like a candy cane or the giftee’s favorite candy bar. They’ll be touched by the kind words and likely will hold on to this sentiment much longer than they would a lavish present.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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