Health Advocate Blog

Keeping holiday spending in check

This year’s holiday season is like no other. Whether you’ve had your decorations up since Halloween or you’re having a tough time getting into the spirit, this time of year is typically filled with lots and lots of gift-giving. However, this can also put quite a dent in your bank account, and considering the challenges many people have faced this year, it may not be possible to give as we have in the past. Read on for a few ideas to help stick to a budget you are comfortable with while enjoying what the holiday season is really all about.

Consider scaling back

This has been a tough year for quite a few people. If you or a loved one is facing financial challenges, think about alternatives to celebrate that do not involve elaborate gifts. Perhaps your family does a Secret Santa gift exchange instead of buying for every person. Plan a (safe) holiday outing instead of exchanging gifts – visit an outdoor light display or go sledding if it is snowing where you are. The important thing is to discuss this in advance so everyone is on the same page. Money conversations are never easy, but tackling this taboo topic now will help ensure a happier, more relaxed holiday.

Get creative

Another option is to make gifts for your loved ones. If you are artistic, this may be a painting or drawing of their home or pet. Maybe you could bake delicious cookies or another treat they enjoy. With fewer and smaller holiday gatherings this year, receiving something heartfelt and special will mean much more than another gadget. Channel your talents to come up with something meaningful you can share with friends and family.

Think outside the (gift) box

Think through your recipient list and try to come up with ideas for each person in advance instead of winging it at the mall (or online). Not only will this save you time and stress as the holidays get closer, but it may also help you come up with some alternative ideas that cost less money but mean more to them. For example, instead of buying your parents a new toaster, put together a day of fun activities together. Here are some other ideas for nontraditional gifts.

Establish a gift budget

While there’s no hard and fast rule on the exact percentage, some experts suggest setting aside 1.5% of your annual household income for holiday gifts. This does not mean you have to spend this much! But it is a good maximum limit to set for yourself to avoid going overboard. Once you have this number in mind, take some time to make a list of all your gift recipients and set an amount for each. Remember this total doesn’t just include gifts for your loved ones, it should also take into account other related expenses, including:

  • Gifts or tips for service providers like mail carriers, hairstylists, teachers and more
  • Holiday cards and stamps
  • Wrapping paper
  • Shipping gifts to loved ones far away
  • Holiday charitable giving

Shop smartly

Before you head to the store or start browsing online, do some research to help you save money when buying your gifts. Find out who is having sales and when on the items you’re planning to buy. Check out coupons or other promotions for possible discounts. By shopping around and doing some homework, you could save money to put toward other gifts or back in your pocket.

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. While that may not look the same this year, it is still possible to shift the focus from presents to experiences, even if they have to be shared virtually–doing an activity together, watching a holiday movie, or playing favorite games can all be done in-person or online. Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season!