Updated: Nov 13, 2022
While the holidays are the most joyous times of the year, the financial side of it can leave many stressed out. For some people, figuring out how to pay for holiday gifts, food, decorations and travel in advance is stressful. For others, the fun of shopping takes over and buries the worry - but then it rears its ugly head in January when the credit card bills become due. Regardless of what type of holiday spender you tend to be, keeping your holiday spending under control is important to keep your financial peace all year long. Here are some tips for how to do it successfully:
Start with a Goal and Plan
The best place to start is by developing an overall spending goal that is reasonable for your current financial situation. In a nutshell, ask yourself, “How much can I really afford?” You also might want to consider how other financial goals will be impacted by this goal. If you are trying to save for a house, you may want to spend less on the holidays.
You’ll also need to decide which activities and items are essential and those that are not. While it’s important to create special times for your family, think about what’s most important and how that decision will impact your family for their lifetime. For example, children will have fond memories about some of the special gifts in their stockings but might not remember a new holiday outfit or front door wreath.
Make a List and Stick with It
The next step is to divide the total holiday spending goal among the items that you need to purchase. Once you know how much you can spend for each person or activity, create a list of items with prices to see which ones will work with that set amount per person or activity.
To stay on track, use a holiday gift app on your phone. These apps allow you to set a budget and gift list for each person so you have a handy checklist at the store and can see the amount you have already spent for each person. Some apps also keep a total so you can gauge how you are doing with spending overall.
As the busyness of the holiday season takes over, it may be tempting to just grab items on the fly but sticking to the plan as closely as possible will yield the best result.
While creating a plan and lists help keep spending under control, what if hard times have left you with no money to start with? In these cases, getting creative and exploring other resources can help. Here are some ideas:
- Refinance your credit card or other loans to skip a monthly payment to get extra cash
- Make handmade gifts with things you have on hand at the house
- Give the gift of service. Let family or friends know that you will do a favor for them in the coming months. Whether it’s mowing their lawn, cleaning their house or running errands for them, they will feel loved and appreciated by your act of service.
- Host a “White Elephant Gift Exchange” using items from your house instead of buying new gifts
- If money is so tight that food or minimal gifts for your children are not possible, look for a local charitable association that provides holiday food and gift programs.
- Look for low-interest loans. While this is a last resort, a small loan that can be easily paid back can help provide the essentials to provide Christmas for your children.
Set Expectations with the Family and Friends
Whether you’re just low on cash or saving for a big purchase and want to keep your holiday spending low, letting your friends and family know about your situation can help relieve some stress and allow you to make better decisions.
Remember What’s Truly Important
While decorations, food and gifts add to the festivities, in the end, it’s the spiritual focus, good times and memories built with family over the holidays that will really matter. Keeping this in mind is perhaps the best way to keep holiday spending truly under control.