I feel like an overwhelming theme for the people in my life has been that they wish they had saved more for the holidays. Some didn't start early enough so their finances took a big hit in December (or January when the credit card bills came due) and others couldn't manage to follow their budget. Personally I underestimated how many events we would attend and the cost for bringing dishes to pass and/or hostess gifts. I'm going to rework my budget now that I can review all my receipts and credit card bill.
What about you?
Do you wish you had started saving sooner? Did you run into holiday expenses you forgot to budget for? Are you going to do anything differently or does your system still work for you (in which case please share!)?
I think a mistake that people make is saving for specific things. When I was young, I used to 'pay myself first'. If there was money left at the end of the month, I rewarded myself for being frugal. When i got a little older, I started 'direct depositing' my paycheck and using a credit card to buy things. I found that the balance on the account was its own reward and started accumulating savings faster. In fact, I believe this encouraged me to spend money more carefully. As a bonus, my 'best practice' of splitting raises and bonuses with my savings account went away. I became very familiar with my expenses and cost of living which helped a lot in determining what we could afford to pay for a home and whether my wife could be a stay at home mom.
Similarly, budgeting for the holiday season starts with a list of people. Then I assign a budget for each gift, select gifts, then shop. If I get a gift at a discount, that money remains in savings. I do, however, buy stuff at the end of the season -- purchases of opportunity -- if the item is sufficiently desired and discounted...especially for my oldest whose birthday in in February.