How can I stay focused on my financial goals 
and still afford to be generous? 

wrapped present

By: KristiLyn Wilkinson,
USU Extension Empowering Financial Wellness Program Manager

December 7, 2020

It’s that time of year again. It somehow manages to creep up on us, and yet, we always know that it is eventually going to come. The holidays aren’t an emergency-aka an unexpected and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action (Google Dictionary). While the holidays aren’t an emergency, you might find yourself feeling anxious, panicked, or worried about all of the money you anticipate spending. On top of that, being generous and making plans to give financially during this time of year can add additional budget overwhelm. There are a couple of ways to manage being generous during the holidays without breaking your budget. 

First, you may have already identified, and are working towards, some financial goals. You might be trying to pay down credit card debt, save for a down payment on a house, or pay extra on your mortgage so you can pay it off early. Working towards these types of goals aren’t something you accomplish in a few days or weeks, they require months of dedication and discipline. By paying a little bit extra each month you are making a dent in achieving your financial goals. The same principle applies holiday spending. If you save a little money each month to be used for holiday gifting and donating, it won’t be a hardship to come up with the money when November rolls around. Make generous giving, however you define that, as one of your goals and create a place for it in your budget.

A great way to prepare to give is by setting up a 1% savings fund. That’s right, you open a savings account and have 1% of your paycheck deposited into that fund each month. Why 1%? Because it is a small enough amount that you won’t miss it in your day-to-day spending but it really can add up over the course of a year. Once the holidays arrive, you can pull that money out to buy gifts for family and friends, donate to a charity of your choosing, or participate in a local secret Santa project to name a few.! This way you are still able to be generous without backtracking on any financial priorities or goals. 

You might find yourself saying, “this is all well and good, but it’s December, and I don’t have a 1% savings fund. Now what?” Another thing to consider is that donating money is not the only way to be generous and give during the holidays. COVID-19 has impacted a lot of individuals and families. Maybe you lost your job or had a reduction in hours at the beginning of the year. Maybe you still don’t have a job or are making less than you were in a previous job. The following are some suggestions that allow you to still be generous without spending a lot of money.

  1. Give the gift of time. Physical distancing restrictions have made it harder for people to gather. Many people may be feeling lonely or isolated. You can take the time to call or video chat with family members or individuals in your neighborhood that feel lonely. 
  2. Give the gift of love. The saying “it’s the thought that counts” rings especially true this year. You could involve your children and make homemade cards or gifts out of things    you have around the house. Kids are very creative, this is a great way to get them involved, spread a little holiday cheer, and not spend money.
  3. Donate items you longer need that are in good condition. Many people are in need of blankets, coats, and other warm items at this time of year. Go through your house and find all the coats that don’t fit anymore and the extra sheets that no one is using and donate them to a homeless shelter or a charitable organization near you. Gently used items that aren’t serving you anymore could be a huge blessing to someone else.

If you would still like to donate money this holiday season and haven’t planned for it in advance, take a look in your budget and see if there is an area where you can cut back for one month. Do you have some food storage? Could you redirect some of your food money this month and eat out less or buy fewer groceries? Think about what you are willing to sacrifice in order to give a little bit more of yourself this holiday season. Happy giving! 


  • Utah State University Extension. (2016, March 4). Finance pro tip: Christmas is not an emergency [Family Finance]. Retrieved November 11, 2020 from
  •  Utah State University Extension. (2016, March 10). How to create a 1% fund [Family Finance]. Retrieved November 11,, 2020 from