5 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

A smiling couple online shopping next to a Christmas tree.

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Don't start the New Year regretting how much you spent during the holiday season.


Key points

  • Limiting a gift list through Secret Santa can help you avoid overspending.
  • Budgeting can keep holiday costs more reasonable.
  • Credit card rewards could help to defray some of your holiday spending.

The holidays are a joyous time, but if you aren't careful, you could end up with a season full of financial stress. And the spending hangover that happens over the holidays could follow you into the new year.

The good news is, you can avoid this fate by following five simple tips to help keep your holiday spending under control so your festive cheer doesn't end up leading to financial decisions you regret.

1. Limit your gift list

Buying gifts for too many people is one of the fastest and easiest ways to go over your budget. And often this type of shopping doesn't bring much joy to either the gift buyer or the recipient if presents are purchased out of obligation or for people who don't need them.

Rather than having an expansive gift list, look for ways to cut down on the number of purchases that you need to make. Suggest a Secret Santa among your friend group so you each buy one present instead of gifts for everyone. Or float the idea of everyone in your extended family meeting up for a really nice meal and skipping the present exchange. The experience will be more memorable and you’ll save money by not buying things that are often soon forgotten.

2. Make a budget

To avoid overspending, it's also a good idea to have an idea of what spending too much actually looks like.

Sit down and do some calculations to see how much you can afford to spend on holiday gifts and activities. Then, make a detailed budget dividing up your available funds between entertaining and the people that remain on your gift list.

By purposefully allocating where your money is going, you can make sure you are making the most of your holiday money and spending it in a manner that will bring you the most joy.

3. Shop early

Starting to shop early enables you to look for buying opportunities so you can get gifts at a discount. You'll also have plenty of time for price comparisons so you can find the best deals.

Paying for some of your gifts now, ahead of the holiday season, can also help you avoid having to reach for the credit cards later if you're running short of cash in December.

4. Track your spending

Aim to keep track of your holiday spending so you can make sure you're staying on budget. Whenever you make a purchase, write it down in a notebook or log it in an app.

If you find you've overspent or underspent in certain areas, make adjustments to your budget so you don't end up with a total topline number that's too high once all of your spending is accounted for.

5. Take advantage of rewards credit cards

Finally, rewards credit cards can help you to reduce your holiday costs. If you buy gifts with a card offering cash back, rewards, or points, you'll get back a portion of everything you spend on the holidays.

You may even be able to consider cashing in some of your credit card points for gift cards or other merchandise that you can give to loved ones or for plane tickets for your holiday travel.

By following these tips, hopefully you can avoid overspending this holiday season. Keeping your holiday spending in check will allow you to enjoy this festive time of year without worrying about the long-term impact it will have on your finances.

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