Tips to keep holiday spending in check

By Teri Horner

Do you feel pressured to make the holidays perfect or think you can’t get through them without spending a fortune?

It can be easy to go overboard on holiday shopping, but with a little bit of planning and budgeting, it is possible to celebrate without spending all of your cash or maxing out your credit cards.

When it comes to holiday gift giving, more is not better. It’s just more. According to the National Retail Federation, the largest portion of a consumer’s holiday budget goes toward gifts for family members, with the average person spending an average of $403 in this category. That’s a lot of Legos and Barbie dolls.

According to Mint: Holiday Survey 2020, 10% of Americans budget for gifts based on how much the recipient spends on them.

With the events of 2020, many have experienced unexpected changes in employment, income and even health, so having a holiday budget is top of mind.

Goodwill NCW’s Financial and Debt Solutions Services is offering a free workshop on holiday spending from 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 19. Learn how to reduce stress and have a great holiday season without overspending. Register here.

With long wish lists and lines to checkout, how can we keep holiday gift-giving simple? The steps are, well, simple. Use these practical tips to ensure you stay on budget for the new year, rather than getting wrapped up and weighed down in holiday spending.

Set holiday spending limits. Give your credit cards the holiday off and limit what you buy to what safely can come out of your bank account or Christmas club account. We’re not talking about using money needed to pay bills but the money you normally would spend on lattes. Be realistic about what you are willing to do without.

Make your naughty or nice list. Only purchase presents for family and very close friends, focusing on children. Others on your list could get homemade cookies or candy in a decorated tin or bag. If your budget is tight, you can do this for family as well. You are still spreading the cheer.

Be realistic. Do not try to keep up with the Jones. When money is tight in my house we each purchase a nongender-specific gift and put them a pile. Each person who brought a gift then takes a gift. Participation is voluntary, and this way no one is pressured into spending if they do not have the money.

Give the gift of time. For my grandchildren, I focus on making them coupons such as dinner with Grandma or movie night. While these items can still cost money, it is not all at once and can be spread out over time. Presence typically don’t cost as much as presents and are more meaningful.

Provide personalized gifts. A small, thoughtful gift is worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use. I remember a time as a child when my grandmother went to a trunk she had in her bedroom and pulled out several items she had received as gifts. Attached to each one was a note that had the name of the person who gave the item to her. She then would wrap it and regift it to someone else. This still brings a smile to my face.

About the author: Teri Horner is the Leader of Counseling Service with Goodwill NCW’s Financial and Debt Solutions Services. For more on the program and how it can help you gain financial freedom, visit

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