How to Create Your Perfect Holiday Without Overspending

Six ideas to avoid overspending this holiday season

No one enjoys a holiday hangover — the kind that comes when you open your January bills and realize you got a bit carried away with holiday spending. Nonetheless, a recent holiday spending survey conducted by Coinstar found that three out of four people overspend during the holiday season.

Fortunately, there are some simple, powerful steps you can take to manage your money without being a Scrooge. Here are six ideas to consider when being proactive with this year’s holiday expenses.

  1. Create a detailed holiday budget.
    Start with a single number. Review your family’s household budget to ascertain how much you can afford to put toward your holiday spending as a whole. Then divide that spending limit among everyone on your gift list — maybe $75 for your spouse, $10 for your pet, etc. Don’t forget that the amount you allocate to each person should cover costs for taxes and shipping, if applicable.

    And be sure to budget beyond the presents. You may want to spring for a Christmas tree, custom greeting cards, party supplies, home décor, special occasion clothing or holiday travel.

  2. Re-evaluate your mindset.
    If you’re feeling guilty about the size of your holiday budget, take a moment to reminisce. 

    Think back to some of the best gifts you’ve ever received. Odds are that they’re not your favorites simply because they came with the heftiest price tags. Instead, those memorable presents most likely reflected genuine thoughtfulness aligned closely with your interests, or included time spent with special people.

    So remember: You don’t have to spend large sums of money to enrich your loved ones’ holidays successfully.

  3. Buy more with less.
    If you’re working with a minimal budget but want to maximize your gift-giving ability, consider these some smart shopping techniques and tricks:

    •  Watch for big sales at your favorite stores. A stellar deal can bring the price of a coveted item within your budget, so be on the lookout all year long — not just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
    •  Always run a quick search for promo codes, digital coupons or free shipping offers before completing an online purchase.
    •  Check the benefits included with your auto club, professional association, church or credit card. Your membership perks may include deep discounts at select retailers.

  4. Think outside the (gift) box.
    The perfect present may not actually be sitting on a store shelf. If you’re crafty, an artistic sketch or knit hat could make for a low-cost but incredibly special gift. Even if you’re not the creative type, you can still whip up an easy batch of homemade cocoa mix or offer babysitting services to busy parents.

    Alternatively, consider making this year a themed gift year. Give everyone on your list a beautiful scented candle, photo frame or kitchen gadget. By buying in bulk, you’ll likely not only save money but simplify your holiday shopping.

  5. Don’t make gift-giving a competition.
    Instead of creating a warm, relaxing holiday season, are you inadvertently stressing yourself out? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that every gift you receive should be reciprocated with a gift of equal (or greater) value. Instead, stay committed to the budget and spending plan you’ve carefully planned in line with your finances.

    If your list of gift recipients is looking too long for your holiday savings account to handle, consider changing things up this year. Agree with friends to enjoy a potluck get-together in lieu of a wallet-burning present swap. Chat with relatives to see if they’d like to give gifts just to the kids. Or have some fun with a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange.

  6. Pare down your schedule.
    Holiday “extras” can add up quickly. Beyond the gifts, you may find yourself spending on a full schedule of pricey holiday shows, dinners out and plenty of travel. But trying to squeeze everything into the season can be more than costly; it can make this time of year downright hectic.

    Instead, consider a slower, more intentional and more wallet-friendly approach to this year’s holidays. Sometimes the best traditions and sweetest memories are easy, inexpensive time spent together — baking cookies at home, building a snowman or driving together to look at twinkling lights.

    For some, the end of the calendar year marks a stressful spending frenzy that culminates in financial headaches. But, with a little planning, you can enjoy a magical holiday season without busting your budget.