Health Advocate Blog

How to stay within your budget during holiday shopping

It is often challenging to stay within your budget during the holiday season. With gifts to be purchased, functions to bring food to, and new clothes or outerwear needed, it can be difficult to stick to your budget. Try these tips to help you get through the holiday season without breaking the bank.

Budgeting 101

  • If you don’t already have one, establish a budget. If you need to create one, learn how here.
  • After all of your bills are paid and mandatory expenses are taken care of, determine the amount of money you can use toward holiday purchases.
  • Avoid spending more money than you actually have, and avoid just throwing it all on a credit card—if you can’t pay it all off, you may have to deal with paying interest on those purchases, which will cost you more money in the long run.
  • Don’t buy for yourself. “One for me, one for you” is not a good motto when you’re holiday shopping! In the spirit of sticking to your budget, remember that gifts for yourself are not in that budget.

Plan your purchases

  • Make a list and check it twice. Write down who you need to buy for, what you might buy them, and what price range you’d like to stick to for each gift. Do some price-checking online to make sure the gift you want to get someone is in line with the money you’ve budgeted for them.
  • Curtail your discretionary spending where you can so you have a little extra cash on hand. For example, if you buy lunch every day at work, pack your lunch instead to save money.

Make the most of your money

  • Look for sales, promotions and/or coupons. There are many opportunities to save on gifts during the holiday season. This can help you buy a gift that is worth more, while spending less.
  • Shop at discount stores. Sometimes it takes a good eye to spot gifts at these places, but when you find one worth purchasing, you’ll feel like you won the lottery.
  • Use cash-back sites to help you get money back. There are websites and apps such as Ebates or Ibotta that offer you cash back for making purchases at a wide variety of stores. Getting cash back can help you offset some of the dollars spent during your holiday shopping!
  • Consider making gifts and cards instead of purchasing gifts. Handmade gifts such as crafts and baked goods are less expensive, but generally have greater meaning behind them because you took the time to make them yourself.
  • Try budget-friendly wrapping. Wrapping paper, ribbon and gift tags are very pretty and make gifts look nice, but usually end up in the trash. You don’t need gift wrapping that is overly fancy (and overly expensive) to make a nice presentation! You can often get great gift wrapping and trimmings at your local dollar store.

Plan for next year

  • Keep track of what you spend during this holiday season to use it as a savings goal for next year.
  • Consider trying layaway. Many stores will allow you to choose gifts and start paying for them on a monthly basis before the holidays.

Be sure to remember that the holidays are about so much more than gifts. They’re about spending time with special people that you love, and making memories that last a lifetime. Consider talking to your family about adjusting the focus from presents to experiences, like sharing a delicious meal, doing an activity together, going out to see a holiday movie, or taking family photographs.