5 Tips to Stay on a Budget During the Holidays

As the holidays approach, it’s a time to celebrate friends, family and food, but for many of us, it can be stressful to think about what else the holiday season typically brings: gifts. With the rising cost of inflation, supply chain woes and shipping delays — gift giving can be even more stressful this year, especially if you’re on a tight budget. But we’ve come up with a few ways to help you be more mindful of your budget.

Get a grip on your gift list

If you have a lot of people in your life who you typically buy gifts for, the American Bankers Association1 recommends writing down a list of everyone’s name and how much you plan to spend on each person. Knowing the numbers before you start shopping will give you a clearer picture of your budget.

Add some creative flair to your gift giving

Now that you know how much you’re planning on spending on each person, you might realize that you’re over budget. But don’t panic. Let’s brainstorm.

  • If you have a group of friends you typically buy gifts for, you can suggest doing a White Elephant gift exchange party or drawing names out of a hat so that each person only has to buy one gift. If you decide to go with either of these options, set a price limit for the gift in advance. Or — skip the gift-giving altogether — and have everyone over for a potluck holiday party.
  • Are you crafty? Think about some homemade gifts you could make someone: a quilt, a photo album or maybe your world-famous chocolate chip cookies.
  • You can make a charitable donation in someone’s name (and they won’t have to know the dollar amount, unless you tell them). Even though you’re spending money, you can deduct up to $300 in cash charitable contributions ($600 for couples) without itemizing on your taxes, notes AARP.2

Don’t forget to price match

AARP3 says that if you’re out shopping (or on your favorite retail store’s website) and you see something on your list, it can be tempting to buy it immediately. But take a moment and remember — many retailers will often match the competition’s price. All you have to do is show it to them. You can bring in a printed ad or search online for the item and see what they can do for you.

Spread out your holiday shopping

You might feel inspired to do all your holiday shopping all at once, but AARP4 advises against it. That’s because retailers scatter their holiday specials and deals throughout the fall and winter. Instead, it’s best to keep track of your favorite store’s upcoming “deal days” because that might be the best time to shop online or in person.

Remember shipping costs

If you’re buying many items from the same online retailer, purchasing them all at the same time can reduce shipping costs, says the American Bankers Association.5 Don’t forget to factor in the price for wrapping paper, bows, greeting cards and other supplies. You could also buy gifts online and pick them up at the store to save on shipping. If you need to ship, follow these pointers from CNBC6:

  • If you wait until the last minute to ship a package — and want it to arrive by a specific day, you’ll wind up spending more money.
  • Call your local shipping providers and see if they offer discounts if you’re a member of certain organizations, like AAA, AARP or USAA.
  • Certain credit cards might be able to help you save money with online shipping, too.

Skip the stress this holiday season and stick to your budget. As you can see, with a little preparation and creativity, you can celebrate your friends and family with gifts they’ll enjoy and cherish.


  1. “Budgeting for the Holidays,” the American Bankers Association, last accessed August 25, 2022, https://www.aba.com/advocacy/community-programs/consumer-resources/manage-your-money/holiday-budget-tips
  2. “10 Ways to Stick to Your Holiday Budget,” AARP, last accessed August 25, 2022, https://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2021/thrifty-tips-for-holiday-shopping.html
  3. “10 Ways to Stick to Your Holiday Budget”
  4. “10 Ways to Stick to Your Holiday Budget”
  5. “Budgeting for the Holidays”
  6. “How to Save on Shipping Costs,” CNBC, last accessed August 25, 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/select/how-to-save-on-shipping-costs/