How To Stop Overspending During the Holidays

Happy couple shopping in the city with smartphone.
zeljkosantrac / Getty Images

It’s easy to chalk your excess holiday spending up to pure generosity. Come January, though, you may be kicking yourself for not holding on to that extra dough.

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It seems obvious, but having a clear and strategic budget on paper for your holiday shopping can really hold you accountable for what you’re intending to spend — and not exceed — this season. Here are a few tips to stop overspend during this holiday season.

Make a Plan

It’s dangerous enough to walk into a store without a list. But when the holiday season comes around, temptations lurk around every aisle, window, and checkout counter.

Keep a list of the people you want to buy a gift for and keep track of potential gifts they have mentioned, or things you’ve seen that would make good gifts for them. Ideally, you would update this list throughout the year, but making a list as soon as possible will help you narrow down any excess buying.

Make Your Money Work for You

Once you have your list, have a number of what you’d like to spend in total for all your gifts this season, then assign an individual dollar amount for each person – you might budget a larger amount for your parents or significant other than you would for your boss or favorite barista.

Then, your list is your word. Match each person to a gift within their budget, and try to avoid any additional gifting.

Use Rewards

No time like the holiday season to start cashing in on those rewards you never use from your credit card. Although there are already perks built into your credit card, many personal credit cards also offer periodic cash back rewards for purchases from certain retailers or brands. You could plan your gifting from certain stores with rewards available. 

Most of the time you’ll have to opt into these rewards. Log into your banking app and look for the rewards or special offers available to you for the next month.

Group Gift Swap

Feeling some giver’s guilt in choosing which friends to buy for this holiday season? Try coordinating a gift swap like Secret Santa or White Elephant with your close circle. 

It’s a good idea to set a preferred budget for the gifts so that everyone feels comfortable with the amount they are spending and receiving. You can even host an event for the final swap. The excuse to get together during the busy holiday season may be another gift in itself.

Make Your Money Work for You

Thrift Gifts

One place you can get by without a super strict budget is the thrift shop. Thrifting is an economically and more environmentally-friendly way to buy totally unique gifts. When I’m looking for a smaller gift that’s a safe bet, I will get a novelty mug from a thrift store’s extensive collection and put a Starbucks gift card inside.

And with the low prices, you have a little more flexibility on what you can buy. You can walk into a thrift store without a complete idea of what to get and let the collection inspire you – you may come across something so specific to your loved one’s interests that you couldn’t find anywhere else. That way gifts from the thrift can still have a personal touch.

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Call on Your Artsy Friends

If you have any artists in your posse, consider giving the gift of commissioned artwork this holiday season. You could commission a sketch of your giftee’s favorite tv character, a string art portrait of their pet, or color-coordinated jewelry. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Have a specific idea in mind when approaching your artist and talk through options, sizes, and rates. Then choose what works best for you. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying ahead of time, your giftee will receive a one-of-a-kind creation, and you’ll be supporting a local artist or small business. Win-win-win!

Don’t Over-Deliver

While it’s tempting to add that “last little thing” to your loved one’s stocking, that frivolous spending can really add up. And as harsh as it sounds, those just-for-fun stocking stuffers can end up in the trash before New Year.

It’s the thought that counts when it comes to gifts, and showering someone with a bunch of gifts certainly shows you were thinking of them. But all those little add-ons could mean just as much as the one thoughtful gift you know they were hoping for. 

Trying to cut out the more extraneous gifts you would throw into your cart. Your wallet (and your nimble wrapping fingers) will thank you!

Plan a Party

As much fun as it is to have a party, it can be stressful to host one. A great way to celebrate a loved one this holiday season without any big singular purchase is by offering to throw a party for them. 

If you have the space, offer to host and plan their upcoming birthday party in the next year. Help them pick a theme, source decorations from other friends, and manage the RSVPs. You’ll also take the worst part of party planning off their hands – the clean-up! 

A gift of service lets a loved one know you want to be there for them, which may mean more to them than any store-bought gift could.

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