3 Spending Rules I'm Setting Ahead of the 2021 Holiday Season

Family passing around Christmas gifts

Image source: Getty Images

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Here are the steps I'm taking to avoid busting my budget.

The holiday season will be here before we know it, and while that's something many of us are excited about, there's a stressful flipside. The holidays often mean going big on spending -- and busting our budgets.

I want to avoid that this year. Though I'm usually pretty disciplined about holiday spending, last year I broke a few of my rules, trying to make the holidays special for my kids in the midst of a raging pandemic. To avoid a repeat, I'm setting these ground rules for the 2021 holidays.

1. Follow a budget

Last year, we didn't spend much hosting meals and parties during the holidays because things were bad on the COVID-19 front, and we mostly celebrated on our own. This year, I hope we'll be able to have a blowout Thanksgiving dinner and host friends for parties (albeit small ones) in December, so I need to be more judicious in setting a budget.

Of course, anyone who's been to the grocery store lately knows food costs have soared, so my budget has to reflect that. At the same time, I may need to spend less in other areas to compensate -- and that's okay. I'd rather map out those costs now to avoid dipping heavily into my savings to cover my holiday bills.

2. Stick to the list

I enjoy giving gifts that are unique and fun -- even if that means they're not always so cost-effective. But this year, I know I need to buckle down. We're coming off some large home repair expenses that force us to spend more conservatively, so it's more important than ever to stick to a preset shopping list.

In fact, if you pop into any big box store or browse online, you'll see that retailers are already pumping out holiday specials and sales. And it's easy to make impulse purchases in light of them. Having a written list should help.

3. Shop in advance

If you've been following the news, you may know shoppers are being advised not to wait until the last minute to make holiday purchases this year. Due to supply chain issues, availability may be limited for certain items, and waiting too long could mean paying more.

That's why I hope to wrap up my holiday shopping by mid-November. Normally, I do a lot of my shopping during the latter part of November and well into December, but I don't think that system will work out well this year. While doing my shopping ahead of Black Friday or Cyber Monday could mean missing out on some deals, I can work around that.

Besides, I've found that those mega shopping events don't necessarily offer the best prices -- and it's possible to get a better deal other ways if you do your research. Those big shopping days can also lead to impulse buys, so I don't mind skipping them.

The holidays may be a highly-anticipated time of the year, but they can also be quite expensive. By sticking to these rules, I hope to make the season more affordable -- and less financially stressful.

Alert: highest cash back card we've seen now has 0% intro APR until 2024

If you're using the wrong credit or debit card, it could be costing you serious money. Our expert loves this top pick, which features a 0% intro APR until 2024, an insane cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee. 

In fact, this card is so good that our expert even uses it personally. Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes. 

Read our free review

Our Research Expert