How to Survive the Holiday Shopping Season: 4 Essential Spending Tips

The holidays are fast approaching and with that often comes the holiday cash-crunch many of us experience. Between shopping for gifts and attending parties, dinners and family obligations, your bank account is sure to feel the pressure. According to recent research, Americans budgeted an average of $847 for presents in 2020. That’s a tough bill to address in the new year. Here are some holiday spending tips to help keep your spending in check this season.

  1. Establish a Budget

Examine your current finances and decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts, travel, entertainment, etc. Ideally this amount of money comes out of your checking account or cash you’ve saved in the months leading up to the holidays. Once you’ve established how much you have to spend, the next step is to figure out what you need to spend it on. Write out a list of everything you’re likely to buy, including: gifts, decorations, supplies, travel and other activities. You may find the list doesn’t exactly align with your budget and some items you intended to buy exceed the amount you’ve budgeted. Prioritizing specific items based on importance allows you to stay within your budget. Continue to tweak your list of items and make sure you stay on track. You want to avoid pulling money you had set aside for other financial goals or relying on credit to get you through the holidays.

  1. Avoid Taking on Debt 

Most of us find it a little too easy to run up our credit card balances during the holidays, thus creating added financial stress. Start a new tradition this year of using only cash or your debit card for purchases. Using a debit card will help you stay on budget and prevent you from incurring additional debt. For SDCCU members, use your SDCCU Visa® debit card and pay as credit, and you could win double your purchase up to $1,000!* Weekly winners will be selected through December 26. If you choose to use your credit card for purchases this holiday season, try to pay off your balance monthly. Credit utilization is the second biggest factor in your credit score, so keeping balances down will help keep your score up.

  1. Start Your Shopping Early

You’ve already started seeing the decorations and ads at retail stores sounding the alarm that the holidays are coming. By starting your shopping early, you save time and money without the added pressure. You’re better off researching the gifts you need by checking online and with retail stores now. If available, make the purchase and cross that item off your list. In years past you may have waited until the last minute to shop, but retailers and financial experts are recommending your holiday shopping begin sooner, rather than later, especially this year. With the pandemic causing supply chain delays and shortages, those items on your list may soon be unavailable or you may be paying a premium price if you wait too long. Also you should avoid buying unnecessary gifts that won’t get used or appreciated because you waited too long. Make sure you keep a list of what you buy and remember where you hide them!

  1. Set Expectations

Setting expectations with family, especially children, can help limit the guilt of not going “all out” for gift shopping and gift giving. There are great holiday gift giving activities that can take the burden off everyone’s finances such as white elephant, Secret Santa, grab bag and kid’s only gifts. These allow everyone to participate in the festivities, without having to feel the financial strain of buying gifts for everyone. Also remember, many people appreciate quality time together rather than receiving a gift. Chances are, you’re not the only one looking to take a little spending break during the holidays.

However you celebrate this holiday season, don’t allow financial stress and worry to ruin this time for you. With a little planning and creativity you can make it through the holidays without that Grinch called debt and with money in your savings account. For more tips on how to make it through the holidays financially, attend one of our webinars on Thriving Through the Holidays. Register at

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