Americans are projected to spend nearly $1,000 on gifts, holiday items, and other expenses during the 2021 holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, planned holiday spending breaks down to $648 on gifts for family, friends, and co-workers; $231 on non-gift holiday items including food and decorations; and $118 on other non-gift items for self or family.
With this holiday season fast approaching, it can be a stressful time of year for many people. What can you do to avoid spending pitfalls this season?
- Make a budget and stick to it. Take a look at your overall savings and budget to see how much money you can allocate to holiday purchases. Make a list of everything you need to purchase including not only gifts, but food, decoration, or travel. You can even create a spending limit for each person you shop for.
- Be strategic. Being an internet sleuth can go a long way when it comes to holiday shopping. Do a quick search for coupons or deals from your favorite stores. If you are doing all of your shopping online you can look for internet coupon codes.
- Consider donating to their favorite charity in their name.
- Get crafty. Homemade gifts come from the heart and your loved ones may appreciate the time and hard work you put into it.
- Get thrifty. Not only will it save you money, but it helps the planet!
Use cash and not credit. While we know credit card rewards can be enticing, it is also much easier to keep charging more and more onto your card. Cash forces you to only spend what you have.
Don’t be afraid to say no. During the holidays, there can be an endless amount of gift exchanges and get-togethers – especially this year. While this can be fun, it can also end up having the opposite effect and cause you stress because it’s overextending your budget. Be selective about which gatherings are important to you to attend. Otherwise, getting a gift or a food/drink item for every party or engagement can add up quickly.
Doing away with gift exchanges.
In 2018 Bank rate did a survey that showed 40% of shoppers feel obligated to spend more money than they are comfortable with during the holiday season. Maybe it is time to consider an alternative to buying gifts.
While I like giving the occasional gift, I am not crazy about receiving them. I am very particular about what I put in my space (It took me 6 months to find lamps for our nightstands). I prefer to purchase things for myself. I am not one for trinkets or random items in my home. 8 years ago I started a campaign to stop giving and expecting gifts. I am not alone in this feeling: 7 out of 10 Americans would give up gift-giving for the holidays.
I first started with my husband who was the easiest to convince. Our families were a little harder because they love the challenge of finding the perfect gift for the perfect price. When it came up naturally in conversation, I mentioned that my husband and I weren’t exchanging presents for whatever holiday, birthday, or anniversary was next on the calendar because we had enough stuff. Finally, 3 years ago my mother-in-law asked if we should do gifts, and I said no, and we haven’t exchanged gifts since.
Coworkers: I truly don’t expect or want people at work to spend their time and money procuring tchotchkes in an already busy and expensive time of year. At my last job, I suggested doing a small potluck and building gingerbread houses for a fun workday (there were only 5 of us.)
You may be thinking to yourself that your family and friends would never go for a “gift ban.” First, you may be surprised at how many people are also feeling overwhelmed by stuff and how expensive the holidays can be – they might welcome this kind of suggestion. Second, you don’t have to completely stop giving and receiving gifts; you can simply aim for less. A great way to achieve this would be to suggest doing a White Elephant gift exchange or Secret Santa.
Just remember, the meaning of the holidays shouldn’t be to accumulate stuff (and oftentimes debt)… It’s to spend time with the people you love and make meaningful memories. We hope you can feel inspired to re-think what this might look like for you.