While the spirit of the season can fill your heart with joy, it can also quickly empty your wallet. There are ways to enjoy the holidays and give to others (and to yourself) without exceeding your financial limits. The following tips will help you control your spending during the most magical — and expensive — time of year.
Develop a plan
You should already have a list of people you need to buy gifts for, as well as ideas for each person, before you start shopping. While you are making your list and checking it twice, establish how much you are going to spend. You could devise a per-person monetary cap or an overall amount that you will divide among your gift recipients. Your spending plan should go beyond the cost of gifts, too. Be sure to include all holiday-related expenses such as decorations, food, wrapping paper, gift bags, supplies for holiday dinners, travel fees, and gifts for charity, advises MoneyCrashers.com writer Amy Livingston. Set a comprehensive budget you can manage (and pay off) so you avoid creating or adding to after-holiday credit card debt.
Find forgotten funds
Before you head out to the store and fight the crowds or open your laptop and curse your sluggish Wi-Fi, go on a funds-finding mission, advises NerdWallet writer Liz Weston. Chances are you have a forgotten gift card in your junk drawer or wallet that will delight someone on your list. If you regularly use credit cards, you might have earned rewards that can help with your holiday budget. Go old school and count your coins — you might be surprised how much they amount to. Weston also suggests shopping your “gift stash” if you have one.
Think outside the box (or gift bag)
Often the most appreciated gifts are not the ones that originate in a store. Use your creative talents to “buy” gifts. Are you a crafter or a talented baker? Are you skilled in home improvement projects and have someone on your list who would appreciate some help in their own home? You might also want to consider gifting your time, which is more precious than anything bought from a retailer. Investopedia writer Reyna Gobel suggests offering a free night of babysitting, a home-cooked meal, or an overdue get-together.
Another way to spread holiday cheer without overspending is by sharing what you already possess. “Consider passing along a treasured object while you’re still around to enjoy the recipients’ pleasure. It could be something you inherited or that the other person admired: a piece of artwork or jewelry, a beloved toy, a musical instrument, a grandparent’s toolbox or baking supplies,” suggests Weston.
Suggest a new tradition
If your gift-giving list is a mile long and it’s stressing you out, consider talking with your family or friends. Propose a spending limit or a Secret Santa buying approach where everyone only has to buy a gift for the name they draw out of the hat. Or, focus on buying gifts for just the kids in the family or plan a holiday outing for everyone to enjoy that eliminates gift-giving responsibilities for everyone.
With thoughtful planning, a comprehensive budget, or a new approach to holiday gifts, you can still enjoy the season of giving without crumbling under financial pressure.