Where to Splurge and Where to Save on Holiday Spending

Two Young Women holding shopping bags and wearing face mask because of Covid-19.
Kemal Yildirim / Getty Images

The 2021 holiday season is quickly approaching, and this year, things will look quite a bit different. One big change is that many people and families will get together in person to enjoy the different holiday events and festivities instead of practicing social distancing. And while celebrating together is fun and exciting, it also means the potential for more money to be spent on food, gifts, experiences and decorations. 

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While it’s tempting to throw your budget to the wind and celebrate with abandon, why not rein in your spending a bit by picking and choosing where to save and where to spend? Then, when the new year rolls around, you won’t have to try to bounce back from impulsive holiday splurges that will put a strain on your finances. 

Save on Wine

“Are you or your guests wine experts?” said Kari Lorz, a certified financial education instructor and founder at Money for the Mamas. “If not, then there’s no need to spend more than $20 a bottle (if that). There are plenty of great options that won’t bust your budget. Just ask the wine steward at your local grocery store for their favorite wine under $20.

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“Also, be sure that you are keeping your eye out for sales. Many stores offer case discounts on wines, and yes you can usually mix and match bottles. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you’ll probably need that many bottles if you entertain.”

Splurge on Experiences

“Last year was so weird and a lot of traditional seasonal experiences might not have occurred the way we would expect,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews. “If you enjoy taking your family to holiday experiences (whether it’s seeing Santa, checking out local light displays at the zoo or botanical garden, or something else) this is the year to do it. A lot of things are returning to normal, so as long as you’re comfortable, consider indulging in these kinds of things again this year. Not only will they provide good opportunities to make new memories, but buying these tickets can go a long way toward supporting local venues that might desperately need it after a lackluster holiday season last year.”

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Save on the Number of Dishes You Serve

“Cut back on the number of dishes served at your holiday table,” said Lorz. “It’s no surprise that we stuff ourselves at these big dinners (and we regret it later). Help everyone out by scaling back on the number of side dishes you serve. You don’t need Brussel sprouts with bacon, green beans and mushroom casserole, and creamed spinach. Pick your family’s favorites and go with those. You’ll save not only money but a lot of time as well!”

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Splurge on Seasonal Foods

“These are things that are typically only found this time of year, so if you really love that box of Belgian chocolates in the pretty festive box, treat yourself,” said Ramhold. “The fact that these are only available around this time of year is a good excuse to splurge on them now — otherwise, you’ll have to wait a whole year for the opportunity to come up again.”

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Save on Decorations

“There’s a chance we may see decorations with fewer discounts this year in general,” said Ramhold. “Our best advice for shopping these items is to wait until after Christmas sales anyway, as that’s when they see immediate, deep discounts. However, this might be the year to skip buying decor completely and stick with what you have. If you want new items, consider having DIY decor parties. You can set out affordable supplies for kids to make ornaments, for instance, but there’s no reason not to indulge as an adult either. Get together with your adult friends, crack open a bottle of wine (or make a festive punch) and enjoy snacks and drinks while you make silly or serious decor to mark the season. This is a great way to get together and build gingerbread masterpieces, for example.”

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Splurge on a Holiday Vacation

“Most of us have been stuck in the same place for far too long,” said Michelle Keldgord, budgeting expert and co-founder of BakingHow. “Now that it is safer to go out and enjoy the world again, I suggest doing it — as long as you’re comfortable. There’s a shortage of supplies, so finding great gifts might be challenging. Why not spend that money on a lavish family vacation instead?”

Read: Where To Get Unique Holiday Gifts Without Leaving Your House

And if you have a family member you’d like to include who may not be able to afford to participate, consider this suggestion from Carter Seuthe, CEO, Credit Summit

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“Pool together your family’s money to get a relative who is a bit farther out of reach to join you in the festivities,” Seuthe said. “Flights are notoriously low right now, and so that should be taken advantage of while they last!”

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About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 12 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, Aol, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Network Journal. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

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