5 Ways to Stay On Budget This Holiday Season

Before we’ve even had a chance to get over our Halloween candy bellyaches (seriously, someone please come take the rest of our mini Snickers), the lights are going up all over town and holiday shopping deals are already popping up online. Holiday creep is real—however, if you look at it from the positive side, we still have an opportunity to plan ahead to avoid overspending.

Each year, the National Retail Foundation surveys shoppers to find out how much the average consumer is spending. This year, we are primed to spend an average of $805.65. That is just about a week’s pay for the average American, and many of us may spend quite a bit more—especially on the kids.

You shouldn’t have to go into debt or dip into your savings to make things merry and bright. With a little bit of planning, you can keep your holiday spending in check this year.

Spread Out Your Spending

There are still seven weeks left until the holidays, which means you have some time to slowly shop, rather than hit the panic button and use up all your cash at once—or worse yet, raid your savings and even rack up more credit card debt.

Tip: To avoid panic shopping and overspending, spread out your holiday shopping. Give yourself a small amount of time and money each week to spread the spending —maybe one hour after work, you could purchase giftwrap and holiday cards; next week, it’s buying gifts for your extended family. That way, your bank account isn’t drained at once, and you avoid the frustrating experience of battling crowds or paying for rush shipping later.

Make a List, Check It Twice

We all know not to grocery shop when hungry. Holiday shopping without a list is the same thing—you’ll fill up your online cart with a bunch of stuff you may not even need, just because it looks great or is on sale.

Tip: Decide on your overall budget, then start a spreadsheet where you can list each person you are purchasing a gift for, how much you want to spend, and what gift(s) might be appropriate. Be sure to account for events and decorations, too, as well as your holiday meal(s) if you’re hosting a crowd!

Online Shopping Tips

Average consumers say 47% of their holiday budget will be spent online. It’s no surprise considering one-click ordering is so easy and satisfying—until we realize those clicks here and there add up to serious dollars!

Tip: Shop when you have time to compare sites, and consider perks like free shipping and returns—but don’t get roped into spending more just to save a little. As Jean Chatzky says, “50% off is still 50% on!” Stick to your list and you’ll come out on budget.

Help Kids Set Expectations

Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has set the expectation that his kids will “receive one thing they want, one thing they need, and one experience to share with the family.” What we love about this is that the focus in not on abundance or consumerism, and still allows each child to receive gifts that are chosen intentionally and reflect the values of the family.

Tip: As kids make their own lists, help them set expectations based on your budget and what you value. You can help them prioritize what they’d like to receive the most, and set the expectation that if they’ve asked for a big item like a bike that it may be the only gift they get, or that if they want ALL the things, they may just receive two or three of them.

Budget to Splurge

Holiday spending should always be within your means—nothing ruins a cashmere sweater like buyer’s remorse. And moths. But mostly that sinking feeling that you still have every time you wear it that you’re still paying it off.

Tip: Part of holiday budgeting is knowing what you can afford, and you’ll feel a lot better come January if you haven’t put yourself into debt over the next few months. Save toward one great thing for yourself…and remember, what you want will probably still be available—and on sale— after the new year.

Tell us how you’re keeping your family budget on track during the holiday season.

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