Money Tips for the Holiday Season

By: Kari Ure, Extension Assistant Professor

November 16, 2021

gifts surrounding laptop with credit card

It was memorable the year my younger brother received diapers for Christmas. It was memorable for my four older siblings. At least this is what I’m told. I was only three years old and have no memory of that holiday season and neither does my younger brother.  Regular expenses don’t disappear during the holiday season.  Diapers were a great gift for his age and needs.

Gifts are not the only expense during the holiday season. Decorations, greeting cards, charities, clothing and accessories for parties, travel, and holiday food expenses add up during the season. Family, friends, coworkers, and neighbor gifts and festivities can make for a stressful season.

It’s easy to justify holiday spending as being generous, but without planning a realistic budget, holiday spending can quickly make ringing in the New Year financially stressful. The key to reducing stress is planning ahead.

Plan ahead:

  1. Make a list of expected holiday expenses before the season. This includes cards, holiday gatherings, travel, gifts, holiday grocery shopping, gifts for neighbors, work parties, and donations to charities.
  2. Make a pre-holiday budget that is realistic and then make a plan to stay within the budget.
  3. Keep a record of money spent. Record keeping shows how the seemingly small purchases add up. It also becomes a reference to use when planning comes around next year.

Here are a few ideas for reducing holiday expenses:

  • Instead of giving gifts to everyone in a group (siblings, friends, coworkers, neighbors), simplify with a gift exchange. Or as a group choose to donate to a charity, the money that would have been spent.
  • Homemade decorations and gifts are meaningful. Time and expertise are valuable gifts.
  • Consider giving experiences (to be enjoyed together or for the recipient to enjoy). Many special holiday traditions don’t cost money.
  • Many people appreciate practical gifts that save them time, money, or trips to the store.
  • Parents and grandparents can simplify the holidays and also build savings funds by putting a portion of what could be spent on gifts into the child’s savings account. The child can enjoy a few thoughtful gifts each year and years later also enjoy a savings fund because deposits have been made consistently each year.
  • Some of the best shopping deals happen after the holidays. Consider waiting until a couple weeks after the holiday to exchange gifts so that the gifts can be bought during the after-holiday sales.

Remember the cost of time and energy on holiday well-being and what is truly important during the season.  Creative gifts may make for memories years later, such as diapers for Christmas.  Reducing financial stress during the holiday season frees up time and energy to enjoy the most important relationships during the holidays.  

For further ideas on holiday saving visit: