Expert Advice: How to Keep Some Jingle in Your Pocket & Handle Your Christmas Spending

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‘Tis the season to shop, and whether you’re buying your gifts online or in physical stores, the urge to overspend can be especially strong during the holidays. But, while Christmas spending can be high, efficient budgeting could prevent you from having a month of regret in January.

For that reason, we turned to several financial experts to find out how you can spend New Year’s Eve counting back the seconds — and not your money. Here’s what they had to say:

shop online for gifts

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas … by Planning Ahead

It’s important not to focus solely on gifts. Instead, keep all of your seasonal costs in mind, and remember that although your possibilities can be limitless, your budget is not.

“It can really help to lay the whole thing out in front of you. One of the sneaky things about holiday spending is that people think about a single category, like gifts, or they’ll think about everything that’s needed for a specific party, but they won’t put the entire season’s expenses in one mental space. If you budget in terms of the whole season, you’ll have more reasonable expectations of the overall bill, and you’ll also be able to strategize by buying in bulk for multiple parties or taking advantage of two-for-one deals on gifts.”

“Decide beforehand how much you want to spend in total on the holidays. Set this as your limit. There’s no going over it. Then, start to work backward and figure out what you need to buy and what you want to buy for those in your life. Break it out person by person, and don’t go over the amount. If you are spending $50 on each person and you find something for $60, keep looking, or add it to a list and check back to see if it goes on sale.”

gift list

Make a List & Check it Twice

Having a plan is not enough. It’s just as important to stick to it. Making a list will help you stay in control of your Christmas spending — and also keep you on track amid the shopping chaos.

“Set out a shopping list and stick to it. Buy early during the sales at the very beginning of the shopping season when selection and prices are both best. Total all of your planned purchases in advance to make sure the amount spent fits within your budget, then stick with it.”

“It is nearly impossible to keep control of a budget that is very slowly being doled out. When you are shopping a little bit one weekend, then a bit more every day of the week for a month, it is very hard to know how much you have spent, and to mentally justify overspending ‘just a bit at a time.’ The best way to avoid breaking a budget is to make your spending very transparent. What I recommend is to buy everything in one day. You will know exactly what you are spending and, if you are breaking your budget, you can’t hide it from yourself.”

christmas budget for presents

Impulse Buying? Bah, Humbug!

Planning a dedicated shopping day doesn’t mean you can’t look around and compare deals and prices. If you want to avoid overspending this year, be determined to say no to impulse buying and learn to shop smarter, not faster. For example, don’t go for extra decoration items if you already have enough left over from last year. Likewise, prioritize your gift list — even if that means making some cuts.

“Impulse buying wrecks holiday budgets in a big way, and the best way to avoid it is to plan ahead. If you know what you’re going into the store for, the whole feel of your trip changes. You’re seeking out specific things, rather than simply browsing in search of inspiration.

Shopping around can make a huge difference in your holiday budget, so don’t allow yourself to be rushed into buying the first thing you see. Of course, you don’t have to visit 10 places or websites for every item you buy, either. Just take a bit of time to compare costs (especially on more expensive items), and then use what you’ve found to make a smart decision.”

“You might spend more or less than budgeted for specific items, but you won’t drastically overshoot your budget if you buy only what you planned to buy before the season started. In other words: No impulse buys. Set holiday spending priorities — this might mean crossing less-important recipients off your gift list.”

christmas budget

Is Your Purchase Naughty or Nice?

Think back to Christmases past in order to determine what you want to achieve with your gifts, and aim for quality over quantity. A good purchase is a memorable one.

“My best tip to differentiate a good purchase and a wasteful one is to think about what gifts you remember from last year and years past. You likely have a few that stick out, which means you have forgotten the bulk of them. A good purchase will add to your holidays and make you (or someone else) smile. A wasteful one will end up in the trash or tucked in a drawer and quickly forgotten. Aim for quality this year. You will be happy you did.”

“Usefulness is an important measure of value. Will you or the person you’re buying for actually use whatever you’re buying them? Will they enjoy it? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘no,’ don’t buy.”

enjoying holidays

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

When planning for a gift, it’s important to keep your loved ones in mind, as well as what they value. Material things are not always a given, so don’t be afraid to get creative and consider gifting experiences and activities.

“If you’re buying a gift, the first question should be whether the person you’ll give it to will actually like it or use it. It’s good to be mindful of costs and such, but if you’re giving someone a gift simply because you got a good deal on it, you’re missing the point. The good news is that great gifts can run the gamut from inexpensive to crazy-pricey, so you’ll have plenty of options.”

“Is this really the gift you’d like to give? Could you give an experience instead of stuff? Could you make something that is personal rather than commercial? What are the values your gift is expressing? Do you value the convenience and time saved by giving stuff, or do you value the relationship and the person by giving something that has meaning?”

As twinkle lights and carols begin to take over our homes, we’re all getting in the spirit of Christmas. Yet, sometimes the joy of celebration can also bring some stress, as well. Fortunately, efficiently budgeting for a season filled with holidays can help manage that stress. So, keep your mind off of spending money and refocus it on spending time with your loved ones, instead. Your 2022 self will thank you for it.

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Andreea Neculae is a creative writer at CoworkingCafe, with a passion for bringing human-interest stories to light. Writer by day and bookworm by night, she loves reading and reviewing anything from the classics to sci-fi and fantasy. Her writing skills are complemented by a special interest in graphic and web design. From research about the rental market to home décor and interior design, Andreea’s articles cover many layers of a renter’s universe. With an academic background in Language Arts, Andreea is always looking to develop new skills and further her knowledge.

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