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7 Tips for Budgeting During the Holidays

budgeting tips for holiday shopping

During the winter holidays, we’re all about decking the halls, visiting loved ones, and finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. But after all the festivity dies down and normal life resumes, you may notice that your wallet didn’t enjoy the holiday season quite as much as you did.

From traveling and gift-giving to decorations and dinner parties, special holiday moments can quickly add up. In fact, 40% of Americans expect to go into debt due to holiday spending.

But the good news is, you don’t have to. We’ve put together 7 budgeting tips for the holidays that will let you enjoy the season to the max—without feeling the pinch in the New Year.

Dollars and Sense: 7 Strategies for Keeping Your Wallet Happy This Holiday Season

For retailers, the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the time of year when profits see a healthy increase. In some sectors, the fourth quarter accounts for as much as 36% of the year’s profits. 

It’s good news for retailers, but those extra dollars are coming out of the consumer’s pocket.   

If you feel like your holiday spending tends to get out of hand, you’re not alone:

Fortunately, there’s no need to turn into the family Scrooge to keep your spending under control this year. Here are 7 simple ways to manage your budgeting during the holidays, even with visions of smartwatches and game consoles dancing in your head. 

1. Plan Ahead or Use a Holiday Budget Calculator

The first step toward managing your holiday spending is simple: decide how much you can afford to spend this year before the shopping season begins. 

Of course, how much you choose to spend is a personal decision, but financial planners generally recommend spending no more than 1 to 1.5% of your annual income during the holidays. For example, if your annual take-home pay is $75,000, your holiday spending shouldn’t exceed $750 to $1,125.

To make it even simpler, try using an online holiday budget calculator. These tools take your income, expenses, and other factors into account to help you set a realistic budget for the season. 

2. Create a Shopping List

Nobody knows how to do the holidays better than Santa, so take a cue from the big guy: Make your list and check it twice before shopping. Why?

Shopping without a clear plan is a recipe for impulse buying. 

While you don’t have to decide who’s naughty and who’s nice, you should break your list down into two groups:

  • Close friends and family – This group will include all those folks who will receive a present of some sort, whether it’s handmade, store-bought, or a gift card.
  • Extended family and acquaintances – For this group, plan to send greeting cards instead of gifts. Ecards work, but consider taking the time to send paper cards—a handwritten personal message means a lot in today’s digital age.
3. Set a Budget Per Person

Now that you have your list of giftees, use the budget you calculated in step one to determine an appropriate dollar amount per person that will keep you from going over your total spending limit. 

Don’t forget to account for non-gift spending too, such as:

  • Travel costs
  • Food and beverages for holiday meals, parties, etc.
  • Decorations
  • Special events (concerts, movies, fundraisers, etc.)
4. Gift or Spend with RaiseRight Gift Cards

To do more with your dollars, shop using RaiseRight gift cards. It’s just as easy as paying with a credit card, without the risk of overspending. Shop with confidence knowing that a percentage of your budget is always going back to your favorite cause or organization.

Using RaiseRight gift cards is a great way to avoid going over budget. Once you’ve set a per-person budget in step three, head over to your RaiseRight account and purchase a gift card in that amount for your desired store to use when you shop. You can also give the gift card as a present or include it in your greeting cards or stockings.

Learn more about how gift card fundraising works. Or, explore our latest Holiday Gift Guide to search brands, discover additional earning tips, and more.

5. Schedule Shopping Trips

Plan your shopping trips in advance to avoid the last-minute rush. This will also help you take advantage of holiday sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Keep in mind that local merchants often have special offers and holiday discounts to compete with online retailers, so be sure to check your area for upcoming sales and events.

6. Price Check on Your Phone as You Shop

Comparing prices online while shopping is the best way to make sure you don’t overspend. What can look like a good sale price in-store might still be marked up over the online price. (But remember to also take shipping costs and time into account.)

7. Take Advantage of Price-Matching Policies

While you’re comparison shopping, don’t forget that most major retailers have price match guarantees. So, if you find a better price down the block or online, don’t be afraid to ask if another store will match it. 

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Many stores will price match when asked, even if it’s not a policy they promote
  • If the price is already steeply discounted for a sale or clearance, the store is less likely to mark it down further
  • Having proof of the competitor’s price, such as a sales flier or online coupon saved to your phone, is absolutely necessary.
RaiseRight: Give Gifts That Give Back

With these 7 tips in your back pocket, you’re sure to enjoy the holidays this season with less stress and a healthier bank account come January. After all, it’s the season for spending time with loved ones—not overspending on gifts and trinkets. 

Fortunately, RaiseRight can help you keep your holiday spending on track while still shopping at all your favorite retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, and more. Best of all, you’ll be fundraising for your favorite cause with every cent you spend.

Learn more about how it works, then get started today for free