How to Actually Stick To Your Holiday Budget This Year

Woman wrapping christmas gifts

The holiday season is here, and with it, the return of holiday shopping. If you have an extensive list of people to buy for, it may very well mean a sizable debt that takes months to pay down. 

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By following some simple strategies, you can make sure you satisfy your shopping list without sacrificing your bank account.

Make a Budget…

It should go without saying, but making a budget is the cornerstone of responsible holiday shopping. Liz Weston of NerdWallet suggests creating a spreadsheet that includes your anticipated income for the holiday months and a list of the people you need to gift-shop for. 

Subtract your fixed expenses as well as how much you plan to pay for things like decorations, travel, food and drinks for holiday gatherings. This should give you a pretty solid idea of how much money you’ll have to work with for your list and allows you to budget accordingly.

…And Stick to It

However you decided to create a budget, the only way it pays off is if you stick to it.

As Reyna Gobel of Investopedia suggests, you may be tempted to match the generosity of gift-givers who don’t carry the same level of financial obligation. But rather than attempting to match someone else’s spending, you should shop in accordance with your budget. 

Those close to you should understand that you have a realistic budget, so there’s no need to try and impress them with a gift you can’t really afford. And besides – the best gift is one that’s thoughtful, not necessarily one that’s expensive.

Cut Down on Costs

If you want to shop a bit outside of your means, it should only come at the cost of other, less necessary expenses. Gobel suggests cutting down on how much you spend on coffee, eating out, entertainment or other inessential purchases, and apply that toward your holiday budget. 

If you feel the temptation to go outside your budget and rack up a balance on your credit card may be too great, consider limiting yourself to cash purchases.

The Thought Really Does Count

It’s become a given that gift-giving in the holiday season means spending big bucks on material goods.

If you have a tighter budget but still want to show your friends and family how much you care, Sean Pyles of NerdWallet suggests shying away from that mindset. Instead, be creative and leverage your skills. 

Finally, you might find that shifting the focus from things to people during the holidays can make the season more meaningful and provide everyone involved with positive memories. 

Related read: How to give back during the holidays >>

10 Inexpensive, Unique Gift Ideas

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box this year when it comes to gifts. There’s no need to spring for a pricey item just because it’s the newest or hottest thing right now. Instead, customize your gift to the person receiving it and think about what will bring them the most joy.

Sometimes giving a handmade or alternative gift can seem it’s just a cheap option, but think about it differently. If you truly take time to create or discover something your recipient will love, what’s wrong with that? 

Here are 10 ideas for gifts that don’t cost a lot but will be deeply appreciated by their recipients. 

  1. 1. If you’re renowned for being crafty in the kitchen, hand out certificates good for a fancy meal of the holder’s choice. Or, as U.S. News & World Report’s Karen Cordaway recommends, bake a smorgasbord of sweets to give out.
  2. 2. If you have friends who have a newborn, you can gift them with a day of peace and quiet by creating a voucher for anytime babysitting or some meals to stock their freezer.
  3. 3. Assemble a homemade gift basket with small items according to a theme. For example, include hand lotion, a good candle, and a soft towel for a spa basket. Or try a deck of cards, snack mix, and dice for a game night basket. These can be fun to assemble, are easily customizable, and cost a fraction of pre-made baskets.
  4. 4. Whip up a Mason jar of cookie mix. If you’re never received one of these, you’re missing out! Don’t forget to attach a recipe to make the finished product. Get instructions here.
  5. 5. Books can make thoughtful gifts if you choose some that reflect your recipient’s interests. How-to books for crafters, the latest sports biography, or a best-selling novel are all good options.
  6. 6. It’s easy to find photo keepsake options online. Adding a favorite image to a blanket, mug, piece of wall art, or even socks is easy and often inexpensive.
  7. 7. Consider making a charitable donation in honor of your recipient. This can be a meaningful way to make a difference and avoid piling on more stuff to someone who doesn’t need it. Organizations like Oxfam allow you to “buy” things with your donation like animals, school supplies, and more for people in developing countries.
  8. 8. Buy tickets to a local museum or cultural institution that your giftee would enjoy. If you feel you need to bump up the cost a bit, include a gift card to a local bakery or ice cream shop so they can enjoy a fun day out.
  9. 9. For outdoors lovers and travelers, consider a pass to the National Parks. The pass will let them get into any National Park for free for one year.
  10. 10. Gift a personalized item your giftee will enjoy over and over again. Monogramming can lend a high-end feel to simple towels, mugs, tote bags, and more. 

More Time & Less Stress This Holiday Season

There’s no need to worry about spending a bundle this season. Though you may feel pressured to give expensive gifts and go into debt out of generosity, remember to spend smart and mitigate any financial damage the season of giving might cause.

To help you stick to your budget and save time this season, be sure to explore all of Minster Bank’s online and mobile banking options. From checking your balances instantly to sending money to a friend, you can do it all with a tap or click. 

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