How to Keep Holiday Spending on Budget

There is such a thing as being too generous, especially during the holidays. In 2019, Americans budgeted, on average, $846 for gifts. That can be a tough bill to face come January, especially after the lasting financial effects of these unprecedented last few years. Here are some holiday spending tips to help get you through the season with your wallet intact.

1: Value your relationships

Write down everyone you plan to give gifts to—from your nearest and dearest to your in-laws and the mail carrier. Then put a dollar figure next to each name. Setting price limits helps you keep your holiday budget on track.

2: Price check with your phone

Despite your best intentions, perfect gifts have a way of blowing your holiday budget. If you find a gift that’s over your budget, use your phone to see if you can find a better price elsewhere. Many stores have price-match policies if you find a better deal.

3: Be proactive

One of the surest ways to overspend is to wait until the last minute and buy all your gifts in a rush. Not only are you more likely to overspend, but it also makes an already stressful time of the year even more so.

4: Buy last year’s electronics

For many people, the latest and greatest features aren’t important. You’re likely to save big by gifting an older version of a device that was the latest and greatest just a few months ago.

5: Consider Making a Donation Instead

As the trends towards minimalism continue, many people are spending time de-cluttering and getting rid of items, rather than adding new items into the home. Consider making a donation in honor of your loved one this holiday, rather than purchasing a brand new item just for the sake of having something to give them.

6: Stay on top of your spending

Spend wisely by reviewing your account statements, paying your bills regularly and using online banking to easily monitor your accounts. If you purchase using a credit card, using a card that offers cash back or other rewards is another smart holiday budgeting tip. Since you’re going to spend the money anyway, you might as well get something—whether it’s retail discounts or travel deals—in return. We put together some tips on choosing a rewards credit card.

7: Consider making gifts

Homemade presents are great ways to save money while creating something memorable. These gifts might not work for everyone on your list, but they’re good options for some. Consider photos for grandparents or cookies for your kids’ teachers.

8: Save up for expensive presents

Putting money aside for big-ticket items can prevent you from depleting your accounts or going into debt during the holidays. Here are some tips on saving for a large purchase, but one of the best savings tools to use is automatic transfers, which nearly all banks offer. This can help you save without thinking about it.

9: Try to avoid shopping sprees

Retailers are really good at enticing people to buy. Everything from display placement to lighting and music is designed to trigger impulse purchases. Researchers have dubbed this the “shopping momentum effect,” noting we’re more likely to keep spending once we’ve gotten started. You can counteract the phenomenon by sticking to your shopping list and leaving the store for a few minutes when you’re tempted to make off-list purchases.

10: Factor in shipping

It’s not unusual for an online item to appear cheaper than its in-store counterpart—until you add in shipping costs. Take note of any delivery or service fees, as well. Keep in mind, many retailers offer shipping coupons or free shipping days to attract customers, so do some research before you click “buy.”

Adapted from an article originally published by Bank of America.