Financial Fundamentals Blog

Holiday budgeting: tips to help you save during the holiday season

Woman in a cozy knitted sweater sitting at a table, engaged in holiday budgeting.


September is almost over, which means the holidays are quickly approaching. In fact, there are less than 90 days until Christmas! The winter holidays are the busiest shopping season of the year with retailers generating 20% of their sales during Thanksgiving weekend.

If you haven’t started to think about a holiday budget, you’re not alone. But there is still time to prepare! Taking a few minutes to create a spending plan and mapping out potential gifts now can help you avoid the holiday debt hangover and allow you to better enjoy the season.

Here are 10 ways to help make the holidays less stressful and less expensive:

  1. Focus on experiences, not gifts. It unlikely that you remember the majority of gifts you received as a child or adult. What you most likely remember are specific holiday events or family time. It’s never too late to create traditions, and it’s always fun to introduce new holiday traditions into your celebration.
  2. Create a family gift-making project. Why not make some holiday gifts this year and get the whole family involved in the process? The options are endless. Try handmade ornaments, themed gift baskets, framed photos or scrapbooks, homemade goodies and more! Remember to start early so you have time to correct mistakes, and make extras to keep on hand as last minute gifts.
  3. Secret Santa. Why not surprise others with a good deed – without getting caught? Shovel an elderly neighbor’s driveway. Leave cookies on a neighbor’s doorstep. Have your children do chores for their siblings. You may be surprised at how carried away you can get!
  4. Gift yourself. Why not gift some of your time to others? Help a family member or friend with housework or cook a homemade meal. This small gesture can have a big impact on others.
  5. Ask for gift receipts. When you’ve purchasing gifts, be sure to ask for gift receipts and include them with the item you are giving. It will make it easier on the person who received the gift to return or exchange the item if needed.
  6. Stick to your budget. Holiday debt can follow you for months and even years to come. Before you even start shopping, be sure to set a budget and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to look for deals and shop online. If you have kids, consider giving them gift cards so that they can hit the stores after Christmas for bargains!
  7. Use no more than two credit cards.  Using a credit card to make a purchase gives you protection that cash and check can’t offer. If the item is not what you ordered, or if there are any problems, you might be able to secure your credit card companies’ help in securing a refund. But be careful. Using credit cards makes it easy to go over your budget. Limit yourself to a low-rate credit card for any purchases that you need to pay off over time and another that you can pay in full when the bill arrives. Tracking your holiday purchases will allow you to stay within your budget and will prevent you from rebuying forgotten items.
  8. Stock up. Buy some universal gifts like picture frames, coffee table books, kitchen gadgets and more when they are deeply discounted. Keep them on hand for the holidays, or for times when you need a gift but don’t have time to find one.
  9. Make a day of the holiday. If your holiday seems to go downhill after gift giving, plan a special activity for the afternoon or the next day. Make an effort to spend time with the ones you love. If you’re unable to be with family, look for opportunities to volunteer and help others who may be alone on the holiday.
  10. Be thankful. It’s easy to lose sight of the things that matter most during the holiday season. Find a way to count your blessings. Consider keeping a gratitude journal where you can write down what you are thankful for. Find creative ways to get your family involved.

Some other important tips to consider:

  1. Make a list of who you have to buy for and what you want to buy them. Start shopping early enough to leave time to compare best prices.
  2. Before hitting the mall, do your research. Check out advertisements and catalogs so you’ll know where you need to go for the items you’re looking for.
  3. Shop alone and don’t shop while you’re tired or hungry. It helps you stick to your budget and can prevent you from buying unnecessary gifts.
  4. Steer clear of high price fad items and instead buy practical gifts.
  5. Don’t forget to utilize online coupons and free shipping!
  6. Consider getting a side job to bring in some extra cash. Don’t be afraid to get creative and every little bit helps!

Looking for more holiday tips? Visit Consolidated Credit at