Smart Budgeting for the Holidays

Personal Finance

December 3, 2020
4 mins read

Special contribution to RentReporters blog

By: Sue Katz, American Consumer Credit Counseling

It’s that time of year again: the holiday season! To save for the holidays, it’s best to start putting away money right after the holiday season for the next year. If you didn’t start last year, do not despair. There are still steps you can take to  make the season happy and a little less stressful. And be sure to start putting aside money every month for next year’s holiday season once the new year hits.

  1. Decide how much to spend – Think about how much you want to spend on gifts, entertainment, travel and decorations, and any other special items.
  2. Make a list and check it twice – List everyone who you would like to buy a gift for. Consider everyone on the list and set a price limit for each gift. To save money you can make gifts, which is also a great project to do with kids. Some gift ideas include photo albums, themed baskets, homemade coupons from the kids (I’ll clean my room, set table, etc.). One year, I gave out gift baskets of my homemade apple butter and blueberry jam. You can also give a family gift like a board game, movie night, or a gift certificate to a local restaurant or small business.
  3. Entertainment costs – With the pandemic we’re being asked to avoid gatherings, but in normal times you’ll want to factor in the costs of entertaining and contributing dishes for holiday meals or cookie swaps. Potluck dinners are a good way to save money during the holidays.
  4. Travel costs – Similar to the point above, travel costs need to be factored into your budget when we’re not in a pandemic. Plan carefully, staying with family or friends helps avoid costs of lodging. Compare costs of driving or flying and shop around for flight deals (also being flexible on travel days can save you money).
  5. Remember to focus on the true spirit of the season – Maybe choose an experience to have with loved ones rather than gifting an expensive item. Go to a holiday concert or light show, for example. Choose gifts that are meaningful to the recipient. Consider making a charitable donation in the family’s name or think about handmade items. Set realistic expectations for gifts with kids as well.
  6. Use credit wisely – Don’t use credit cards unless you can pay them off right away. Withdraw only what you plan to spend to prevent unnecessary spending. By using cash, you can avoid ID theft, as during the holidays, you are especially vulnerable to hackers and skimmers. Also, you will be helping the local small businesses because they won’t have to pay the processing fees for your transaction and some small businesses will give discounts if you pay with cash.


Remember the holiday season is about family and gratitude! Make it special by spending time with those you love. Happy holidays! 

Sue Katz is Community Outreach Coordinator with American Consumer Credit Counseling and a Certified Credit Counselor & Educator.



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