The holidays are right around the corner which means spending, spending, and more spending.  Research shows that the average American family spends over $900 on gifts.  Add hosting holiday parties, décor, and food to that list and that amount is easily doubled.

To prevent overspending, read a few of my tips that will keep you from  going into debt for the holidays.

Create a Holiday Budget

It’s important to know how much you expect to spend for the holiday season.  Remember that holiday planning isn’t just about gifts, but it’s also about food, travel, pictures, décor and even gas.

Determine How Much You Need to Spend

The holidays are expensive so its vital to know what you are planning to spend.  Here are some categories to consider when planning your budget:

  • Family gifts (set an amount you will spend per person or pull names to purchase one nice gift for one person)
  • Work gifts/exchanges.
  • Food (include baking goods, dishes needed, pot lucks, serving utensils, etc.)
  • Clothing for holiday parties and family pictures
  • Airline, plane, and bus tickets
  • Rental car and gas (don’t forget to pack a cooler to save money while on the road)
  • Christmas tree, ornaments, décor for the home, etc.
  • Wrapping paper, Christmas cards, stamps, etc.

Remember to prioritize what’s important.  I love giving gifts but I also love spending time with my family.  I’d rather put more into putting a great meal together than buying gifts because for me, memories are more important than things. Having a budget will allow you to control your spending through the holidays therefore, making the holidays more enjoyable.

Setting Expectations

To prevent overspending, get a sense of what will be expected of you before you start shopping. For example:

  • Know what you’ll be buying and who you will be buying for. You also need to set an amount you will spend per person.  You may want let those who may get offended for not getting a gift what your plans are before you start buying presents.
  • Determine if you are going to participate in the office potluck or holiday parties. If you don’t plan to attend, instead of transferring it to other areas of your Christmas budget, put it in a vacation fund for the following year.
  • Instead of doing a gift exchange at work, consider a cookie exchange. Bake a large batch of cookies and put them in small plastic favor bags wrapped in ribbon and you have a set of gifts for less than $20.00.
  • Get a list from your kids early to plan your budget accordingly. This will avoid last minute visits to the store which will save time and money.
  • If you have group of close friends, go out for appetizers instead of buying gifts. If you really want to buy a gift, set a challenge such as a $10 limit. This will take the weight off buying expensive gifts and allows you to get creative.

Start a Holiday Account

We have several accounts including a holiday/vacation account. In June we start the account off with $100 then deposit  $50-100 per month in that account which will go toward holiday spending. This way when it’s time to set our total budget we will either have to add more to it or have enough to cover what we want to buy. Either way we won’t go over budget because we’ve already prepared ourselves.

The type of holiday account I have requires me to set a withdrawal date making it impossible for me to touch it before its time.  Some people in my family are easy to buy for (my brother in law wants money or gift cards every year) but other’s wants thoughtful gifts so I like to have a rough draft of what I plan to buy before depositing money into the account.  For example, this year my husband and I set a $150 limit to spend on each other so I know that in November, we both will have to add money to the chunk we’ve already saved. By starting early, you can build a nice size account that will allow you meet all your holiday needs.

Budget Saving Strategies

Once you have a budget and a list start looking for ways to stretch your budget even further and how to make extra money.

Once you’ve budgeted and started saving for the holidays, you may want to pad your holiday account with a little extra money. Or, you may decide to find ways to stretch your tight budget even further. From selling extra stuff to taking on extra work, every little bit helps to relieve some of the financial pressure of the holidays.


Start Shopping Early

Unless you want electronics, Black Friday may not be the best day to shop.  I see deals everyday on items that I would want to buy family and friends.  You can shop smart buy checking sales items regularly, price matching, and by shopping online.

The holidays and cause you to unknowingly overspend.  It’s designed to get people in the “happy mood”. This is something you want to avoid if you have a problem controlling your spending.  If you have this problem consider online shopping to avoid the sounds of holiday music and the smell of candied pecans sold in the mall

Sell Unwanted Items

By selling unwanted items, you will not only build your holiday savings but you can use this time to clean out old things to make a way for new items

  • Offer up is a great way to get rid of old items. (It’s also a great way to find new items tax free).
  • Sell clothes to a thrift store such as Plato’s closet

Utilize Unused Gift Cards

I’ve been married over a year and still have gift cards that I haven’t used.  Instead of spending your unused your gift cards, consider saving them for the holidays.  This will significantly decrease the amount you have to spend out of your own pocket.

You can even purchase gift cards from sites at 30% off and use those to purchase gifts.  This can also decrease your budget significantly.  Check out CardPool and Raise for discounted gift cards.  You can also give discounted gift cards to family and friends – they’ll never know you bought them on the cheap.

Get a Seasonal Side Hustle

A seasonal job can do wonders for your holiday budget.  Target and Walmart are hiring seasonal workers right now.  The key is to make sure you save all your money for the side hustle and not waste it on frivolous spending. Here are several other ways to earn some money for the holidays:

  • House/Pet Sitting
  • Tutor
  • House cleaner
  • Dog walker
  • Proof reader

Complete a Finacial Fast

A financial fast will not only save you money but it will also help break bad spending habits.  It’s easy to carelessly spend. A spending fast will allow you to realize what your triggers are when you spend outside the normal necessities and shopping habits. You can start buy doing a week and slowly increase it. Through this you will buy the necessities such as food and gas.

Learning to plan for holidays is a great way to build a better relationship with your money. Controlling your money will carry over into other areas of your life. Control your money, don’t let it control you.


The holiday planning guide was seen first on hobbies and cents.