According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average person spent just shy of $1,000 on the holiday season in 2021 — $997.73, to be exact. The NRF hasn’t yet released its projections for 2022, but after months of inflation forcing households to spend more without getting more, there is a nearly universal consensus that this year, families will be cutting back.
If your family is among them, don’t worry. You can have an unforgettable holiday season without getting stuck with unpayable credit card bills in January. Here’s how you do it.
To Spend Less, Spend Deliberately
There’s no official record of how much money the average household wastes each holiday season on impulse shopping, panic-buying and FOMO-based spending, but you can bet it’s a lot.
Now is the time to create a holiday-specific budget that outlines exactly what you have to buy, the people and events you have to buy it for and what you can realistically afford to spend. Pre-holiday budgeting is the equivalent of creating a meal plan before you hit the grocery store — it saves time, reduces stress and it can cut your holiday bills in half.
“Know where your money is going,” said Melissa Feldsher, managing director and head of lending innovation at JPMorgan Chase. “Family gatherings, travel and shopping can make it difficult to manage your money during the holidays. Keep a close eye on your budget to ensure you don’t overspend.”
2022 Will Bring Deep Discounts, but Don’t Wait for Big Sales
High inflation is squeezing budgets much harder this year than in holiday seasons past — and America’s retailers know it.
According to CNBC, sellers are struggling to move excess inventory that’s already been marked down. In anticipation of a lean holiday season, retailers are cutting prices even more to coax cash-strapped families into spending what little they have at their stores and websites. Toys, computers and other consumer electronics will see especially steep cuts.
The pandemic changed the nature of the holiday sale season, and the best deals of 2022 won’t be hemmed into traditional events like Black Friday. The deals will come on an item-by-item basis when retailer algorithms say the time is right.
Download price-tracking apps like Honey, CamelCamelCamel and ShopSavvy, add your must-have items and be ready to pull the trigger when you get an alert that prices have dropped.
Replace Hosting With a Potluck
According to a study from Cinch Home Services, the average family spent $218 to host a holiday meal and gathering in 2021. Thanks to 9% inflation, you can add about $20 to that tab this year.
With budgets already squeezed from months of rising prices, a party like that is simply out of reach for many. Instead, Feldsher recommends you consider a potluck party this year — or at least a BYOB.
“Share the work and encourage guests to bring their signature holiday dishes and favorite beverages to pass around at the event,” she said. “This will help everyone share in the cost of the celebration and serve as a great conversation starter.”
Shop the Dollar Stores for Cards, Party Supplies and Paper
There’s no shortage of online lists offering guidance on what to buy and not to buy at your local dollar store, and a few holiday-specific products are always at the top of the “do” list.
The No. 1 item that can help you save more than 50% is holiday cards. It’s not unusual for a single card to go for $5 in a drugstore, but since dollar stores buy discontinued inventory in bulk, they can sell cards at prices that are so low you’re almost certainly overpaying if you buy them anywhere else.
Other necessities that are used once and thrown away — wrapping paper, bows, balloons, paper plates and other party supplies — are almost always cheapest at dollar stores, too.
Buy Discounted Gift Cards
Gift cards are an easy and thoughtful way to give a little something to colleagues, teachers, distant relatives and service providers like mail carriers or stylists on the holidays. But on a dollar-for-dollar basis, it’s the same as giving cash — unless you get them at a discount.
When people receive gift cards they don’t want, they sell them for whatever they can get to sites that then turn around and sell them at a discount to shoppers like you. It’s essentially free money.
The top discount gift card sites include Coingate, Raise, GiftCards.com, CardCash and Gift Card Granny. Check them out.
More From GOBankingRates