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The holiday season is truly one of the most joyous times of the year.



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Everybody is full of holiday cheer, Christmas trees are lit up, and depending on where you live, there may be even snow on the ground.

But despite the festive atmosphere, the holidays can be an expensive time of the year. Holiday spending can turn cheer into stress.

This article will provide tips and tricks to help you stick to your holiday spending plan and avoid the dreaded debt hangover in January.

Tip #1: Create a holiday spending budget

Racking up credit card debt is a sure way to put a damper on the festive season. Avoid the holiday debt headache at all costs.

While maintaining the spirit of giving, it is essential to set up a realistic budget for the holidays.

A reasonable budget will help you determine the amount available for holiday spending without using cash advances (credit cards or credit lines).

The ideal time to set your holiday spending limit is at the beginning of the year. Creating a budget at the beginning of the year gives you adequate time to save up at a comfortable pace.

The next best time to create your holiday budget is now.

You are more likely to overspend without a budget in place. So before you hit the malls (or online stores), be sure to have a spending plan first.

Check out this article for budgeting tips and tricks and the Money World Basics free budgeting template.

Tip #2: Give the gift of time over physical gifts

While it is the thought that counts, holiday gifting can end up being less thoughtful and more obligatory.

It is not always easy to pick out a fitting gift for each and everyone on your list.

In such instances, instead of buying a random gift (that will more than likely end up at a garage sale or in a donations pile), consider the gift of time or experiences.

Gifts of time may include:

  • In-person visits (or even virtual visits over zoom)
  • Offering free babysitting for your family and friends with young children
  • Sharing joy in the form of a delicious homecooked meal
  • Offering to do chores such as lawn mowing, snow shoveling, car, and house cleaning

Also, experiences that involve spending time together can be more memorable than well-intentioned but ill-fitting expensive gifts.

Consider meaningful (and often pocket-friendly!) experiences such as sharing a conversation over coffee and dessert, an evening at the bowling alley, etc.

Tip #3: Start shopping early

If you have ever shopped on Christmas eve (or on the eve of any other occasion), chances are it was a stressful and hurried experience.

Further, you probably ended up spending more than you would have preferred due to the time constraint.

To avoid the last-minute frenzy, start shopping as early as possible. Below are some tips on ways you can get a head start with your holiday shopping.

  • Start shopping for the next holiday season on boxing day!
  • Keep an eye out for whenever items on your list go on sale throughout the year

Tip #4: Consider eliminating reducing the stocking stuffers

For many, Christmas stockings are arguably an essential part of the holiday traditions.

And so it is with the risk of upsetting Santa Claus in mind that we dare suggest that maybe this year you consider going light on the stocking stuffers. Hear us out.

Ideally, stocking stuffers should be small and inexpensive items. Around the holidays, retailers carry various attractive stocking stuffers. If not careful, these seemingly affordable knickknacks can rack up your bill fast.

As stocking stuffers are secondary to the main gift, consider reducing the amount you spend on these items.

Further, if you need to reel in your holiday spending a bit, consider eliminating stocking stuffers from your list altogether.

Tip #5: Avoid buying unnecessary items on sale

Seeing things on sale can be alluring. It is tempting to buy bargains with the idea that you are saving money.

A bargain only saves you money if you already had the intention of buying the given item.

If you buy an item on a whim because it is on sale, it is (unfortunately) a waste of money. You will typically end up with something that you do not need and a lower bank balance.

Regarding holiday shopping, stick to your list of items and do not let big sales entice you.

If you start shopping early, you can use price comparison websites and apps to alert you when something on your list goes on sale.

Check out price comparison sites such as Google Shopping,,,, etc.

Tip #6: Collect coupons and coupon codes

In addition to finding bargains, coupons and coupon codes can significantly curb your holiday spending.

Many websites aggregate coupons in one central place for a consumer’s convenience. Popular coupon websites include Honey,, Groupon, etc.

There are also cashback websites like Rakuten (formerly that save and earn you money to shop. Rakuten provides you with cashback of 3% – 10% on products and services from over a thousand online retailers.

Tip #7: Shop online

Online retailers have few overhead costs (rent, payroll, electricity, etc.) and can pass on these cost savings to consumers.

Therefore, it is typically cheaper to buy online than to buy at a brick and mortar store.

Online shopping also offers great convenience as you do not have to leave your home’s comfort to make a purchase.

This convenience also saves you money in terms of time and helps you avoid costs such as gas or babysitting fees.

Further, shopping online helps you to avoid impulse buying. Physical stores use various tactics to entice you to spend more. Such tactics may include product placement at strategic points, enticing scents, samples, etc.

All these gimmicks cloud your judgment in the moment, lead you to spend more time in the store and subsequently buying more than you intended.

Avoid crowds and save money by opting to do most of your holiday shopping online.

Note: Set a limit on the amount of time you spend browsing and shopping online. The longer you spend on shopping sites, the higher the likelihood of overspending.

Tip #8: Start planning for next year

Whether you are ready or not, the holiday season seems to arrive a lot sooner than you think.

To get ahead of the game, consider starting your holiday preparations as soon as the season ends.

There are typically many clearance deals at the end of any given holiday or season.

IF there are items that you will need next year, buy them in the current year while they are on sale.

Tip #9: Get on the newsletter or email lists of your favourite retailers

Many merchants will offer discounts for merely joining their email list.

Further, retailers will provide exclusive perks, sales, and promotions for members. Being on such email lists will let you know when an item on your list goes on sale.

Tip #10: Use the 24-hour rule

This rule encourages you to wait 24 hours before buying any items that were not originally on your list. This wait provides a cooling-off period to help you curb impulse buying.

Brick and mortar stores can hold items for up 24 to 48 hours, allowing you to rethink whether you genuinely need them.

With online stores, you can leave items in your cart for 24 hours and see if you still really want them the next day.

Your loved ones do not expect you to get yourself in debt for the sake of getting them a holiday gift.

It is the thought behind the gift that counts and not the dollar value.

If you enjoyed this article or have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below! I’d love to hear from you! Also, please feel free to share this with anyone that may benefit from it.

Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~Norman MacEwan


Holiday Spending

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Ever feel like money just seems to slip through your fingers month after month? Our Monthly Budget Tracker will guide you to start making the most of every dollar. It’s a game changer—get it free for a limited time!

Nikki Kirimi

Nikki Kirimi is a recognized finance professional (MBA, CPA, CMA) and founder of Money World Basics. Her personal finance advice has been featured in Yahoo Finance, MSN, and Go Banking Rates.