How to save money during the holidays

By Izzy M Reviewed by Sarah R Edited by Nooreen B
Modified on February 27, 2024
save money during the holidays

The holiday season is a wonderful time to spend time with family and go shopping for personalized gifts. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose track of spending and accidentally end up in a holiday debt hole. But there are several ways you can save money during the holidays and still get quality holiday purchases for friends and loved ones! Keep reading to learn some beneficial money-saving tips.

How To Make a Holiday Budget for Holiday Spending?

Establishing a budget can help you keep track of your holiday spending, so you don’t end up with a lot of debt after the holiday season. Below are some holiday budgeting tips to save big

Set a Spending Limit

One of the first steps in creating a holiday budget is to set a spending limit. Consider how much you can afford to spend on gifts after your monthly expenses are taken care of. After calculating your monthly bills, you may find that you are able to spend $400 on your loved ones without using loans. You can then decide how much you want to spend per person and spend money according to that budget.  

If you want more money to spend, you may think about using your credit card balance. Set a hard spending limit and ensure you do not use more than 30% of your total credit limit. Maxing out your credit cards increases your credit card utilization ratio, which affects your credit score by as much as 30%. 

Identify Priority Expenses

If you want to buy specific gifts for people, then plan around those holiday purchases. Suppose you set a $200 holiday shopping limit but want to buy your sister an $80 handbag. That means you have $120 to spend on other people. A list of priority expenses can make it easy for you to get certain gifts for close friends and family while still affording holiday gifts for coworkers and neighbors.   

Make a Shopping List

A beneficial shopping strategy is to make a shopping or gift list. If you want your holiday gifts to have a wow factor, list the items you need to buy. Knowing what you need and how much you want to spend on decorative items can help you stay on a budget. 

For example, you may want to stock up on the following:

  • Luxury gift wrap
  • Gift bags of various sizes
  • Labels for presents
  • Christmas cards
  • Festive tissue paper

You can also try making a gift list for everyone in your life. Consider what you want to buy them and how much that gift may end up costing. Shopping lists can save you a lot of money during the holidays and help you avoid forgetting to get someone a gift.  

Track Your Holiday Spending

It’s so easy to go over budget when you don’t track spending. To ensure you don’t spend more than your allotted budget, keep all your receipts and use a budget-tracking app like Mvelopes or YNAB. Apps are great for on-the-go money management because you can quickly see how much of your holiday budget you have spent thus far and how much you have left. Or you can use a traditional budget worksheet by printing a free template online. Don’t rely on your memory to track holiday purchases when there are more reliable methods.   

Open a Holiday Savings Account

Opening a holiday savings account can make it easier for you to save money for holiday fun. If you have extra money to spend, deposit that amount into your holiday fund to steadily grow your holiday spending budget. When it’s time to start shopping for the perfect gift, you have a dedicated spending amount meant just for the holidays. 

10 Ways To Save Money During the Holidays

You can absolutely save money without sacrificing holiday cheer! Here are ten simple ways to save money while still getting into the holiday spirit! 

Shop for Great Gifts Early

Shopping before December can help you get great deals on gifts for yourself and loved ones. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great days to shop for gifts because almost every store has special discounts and sales. If you wait until December to shop, you may not find the items you want. You may end up having to pay full price on items on your list. Shopping early also ensures that you get your packages on time!    

Shop Online for More Discounts 

Shopping online instead of in stores is far more convenient and can help you save money! Looking for gifts online makes it easy to compare prices and items. Suppose you want to get your spouse a new fleece jacket. Your local retail store may not carry the size or color you want, but shopping online can help you find the exact jacket you want for less money at a different store! And if you shop online during the holiday season, you may be able to score free shipping!   

Make Handmade Gifts

Handmade gifts can be much more meaningful for the gift receiver and save you money. There are countless homemade gift ideas online. If you have a friend that loves hot chocolate, you can make them hot chocolate bombs to enjoy immediately! Soap is always necessary around the house; you can easily find soap-making kits in stores or online. If your father enjoys toast and coffee in the mornings, you can easily make some delicious, organic preserves for him. Your family and friends would surely love getting a personalized gift demonstrating thoughtfulness.     

Create a White Elephant or Secret Santa Gift Exchange

Gift exchange events are a great way to save money and have fun during the holidays. Most people plan or participate in a White Elephant or Secret Santa gift exchange.  

White Elephant Gift Exchange 

A White Elephant gift exchange starts with a set gift amount, such as $20. You can buy almost anything unless the gift exchange organizer sets rules, such as no clothes. Numbers are drawn to determine the gift-picking order, and players can choose a gift from the pile or steal a previous player’s gift. There is usually a limit on gift stealing. For example, each gift may only get stolen three times.    

Secret Santa Gift Exchange

Secret Santa means giving a gift anonymously to someone you were assigned. A gift giver is randomly assigned a giftee to shop for. Typically everyone has to make a list of what they want to receive as gifts to help the gift giver shop. When it’s time to exchange gifts, typically, someone hands them out. After each present gets opened, the gift giver can announce their identity! 

Host a Potluck 

If you usually host the holiday dinner, consider hosting a potluck instead! Potlucks can save you a lot of money and energy. Buying a ton of groceries to make multiple dishes can cause a massive dent in your wallet. A potluck allows you to avoid spending a lot of money on grocery shopping and time in the kitchen. You can enjoy dishes you may not usually make at potlucks, which may inspire you to try new recipes!   

Go To Free Holiday Events 

You do not have to pay money during the holiday season to have a great time with friends or family. Spending time together is the most critical part of the holidays, so look up free events around your area! Most cities will have a holiday parade or tree-lighting ceremony that you can go to. These annual events tend to play festive holiday music and have holiday activities for the whole family. 

Have Holiday Fun Indoors

You can easily have holiday fun indoors without going out into the freezing cold or splurging on event tickets. You can host a holiday get-together where you can watch classic holiday movies, eat comforting food, and play board games. Holiday fun doesn’t have to mean spending money or taking a lavish trip to the ski slopes. As long as you spend time with the ones who matter, you are bound to create long-lasting memories. 

Forgo Gifts This Holiday Season

You can absolutely choose to forgo gifts this year! While the holiday season is associated with gift exchanges, you can choose to avoid giving or receiving gifts. Ensure you notify your friends and family early. You are not obligated to provide a reason for forgoing holiday gifts. But if you’re comfortable explaining, you can be honest with loved ones. State that you want to save money for other events or that you want to avoid accumulating more items you may not use. For example, maybe you always end up having to sell gift cards to restaurants and stores you don’t frequent. People rarely object to gift skipping as long as you still make time to see or talk to them during the holidays.      

Only Use Cash When Holiday Shopping 

When you use credit cards to do your holiday shopping, it’s easy to lose track of how much you spend unless you use a budget tracker app. But forcing yourself only to use cash ensures that you always know exactly how much you are spending. You can also split your money into multiple labeled envelopes with each gift receiver’s name to make shopping a more straightforward process. It’s easy to forget about taxes when shopping with a credit card, but carrying cash reminds you that instead of $30 left, you may only have $26.78 to spend on a person.        

Use Last Years Gift Cards 

Gift cards are standard holiday gifts because they allow the receiver to spend a finite amount at their favorite store or restaurant. However, you may end up with gift cards you do not use and have since forgotten. You can regift, sell, or use those old gift cards from the previous holiday season. Gift card expiration dates vary, so call the customer service number to check the balance of the card before deciding what to do.   

The Bottom Line: Saving Money During the Holidays

If you aim to save money during the holidays, know that it’s entirely possible! There are countless ways to save money during the holiday season. Although by far, the best course of action is to start a budget plan. Knowing exactly how much you want to spend can help you avoid going over budget. A shopping list can help you avoid buying additional items, and a budget tracker can help you keep track of your spending. 

This holiday season, save money without cutting down on your holiday festivities! And if you want to splurge, consider applying for fast cash loans online. You can conveniently get fast holiday money that you can repay over a few months or years. But ensure you take time to compare loan offers to find the best option for your finances.

Check out our other blogs, like Christmas on a budget helpful tips to make it happen, to learn more!

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