A new survey by Forbes Advisor found that 36% of Americans anticipate spending more this holiday than last year. Consumers plan to spend $875 on gifts, decorations, food and other seasonal items this year, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation.
Here are six holiday hacks I learned as a financial coach to help you spread joy without breaking the bank.
1) Prioritize Your Top 5 Holiday Wishes
As you’re thinking about how much you might spend this season, write out all the things you’re planning to do between now and the new year. For example, your list might include:
- Holiday travel;
- Gifts for individual people;
- Food favorites you must have this time of year;
- Parties you want to host or attend; and
- Traditions that are meaningful to you and your family.
Then, decide the top five priorities and their order from most important to least on your holiday wish list. So, if you have to adjust your budget, you know what gets funded first.
For example, if visiting family is your priority, maybe you’ll choose to trim your gift budget and spend that money on a New Year’s Eve trip to get together with loved ones you haven’t seen in a while.
The important thing is to plan for who matters to you before the holidays begin.
2) Get Feedback On Last Year’s Holiday Spending
Ask your loved ones if they enjoyed all of their gifts last year or were there any “one and done” gifts, those that you give a gift once and never feel obligated to again. If someone says they don’t really want anything, believe them. There are in fact people who would rather not have more things to take care of, or would feel relieved to not get a gift because they feel pressured to reciprocate.
Check in with your family on visiting, too. About half of Americans (48%) intend to travel over the holidays, according to a holiday-travel-survey.html” aria-label=”2023 Deloitte survey”>2023 Deloitte survey. That means half of Americans are also choosing not to travel, and it can be okay for your family to take a break this year if they found last year too tiresome.
Before you assume what people want, assess last year’s spending and whether or not you need to celebrate the holidays the same way.
3) Buy Gifts Using The $1 Rule
The $1 rule is easy to implement starting today. Try buying gifts as long as they come out to $1 or less per use. Let’s say you’re buying a toy or piece of clothing for someone for $20. Ask yourself, will the gift recipient really use it 20 times?
If the answer is no, try to stick to items that you think will really be loved and used well by your family members and friends versus things that will collect dust in the future.
The $1 rule works well for the items that often are impulse purchases, and it forces me to stop and think about how frequently people will use something, and how long they will realistically keep it, before I buy it.
4) Challenge Yourself To A Zero-Based Decorating Budget
In our social media-obsessed world, it can be easy to go overboard trying to make your house look like a magazine cover. Here are some fun ideas that cost $0:
- Do a holiday decoration swap with your neighbors so you get something new to you.
- Get crafty with your family and friends as a holiday activity and make homemade Christmas cards with supplies you already have.
- Take the kids on a pinecone scavenger hunt to make into a pretty centerpiece.
- Stretch a roll of wrapping paper across the table with prompts like “I’m thankful for…” or “My 2023 highlight was…” and place markers or crayons on the table for everyone to share their answers.
You can still make your home feel festive without more money spent on décor that will collect dust the rest of the year.
5) Plan Meals By Bites Instead Of Dishes
I’m not knocking holiday leftovers, but how many years have you had all those extra containers in the refrigerator than you could get through?
I learned from working in the catering industry that 15 bites of food are plenty for a nice well-rounded dinner. That means only a few bites of protein, a few bites of sides and around three bites of dessert. This helps you save money, and helps your family avoid the food coma and the guilt of overeating.
For example, if you have 10 people, you need about 150 bites of food. This might mean a total of five dishes with about 30 bites of food each.
You don’t have to serve up full slices of cake or pies, which can get expensive and even wasteful, as you can be satisfied with small bites of sugary treats.
You’ll save even more money if you take time to think through just how much food you actually need—for the big Christmas meal and the appropriate amount of lunch sandwiches for just one or two days after.
6) Recruit Your Holiday Budget Partner Today
If you’re with your family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday or in the weeks to come, find someone you trust who can be your partner for the holidays on keeping each other on budget.
Today, set a goal of how much you want to spend and keep each other informed of where you are. Ask for your partner’s unbiased opinion. Recruit someone who won’t judge or shame you, but also lovingly keep you accountable when you’re going overboard.
Having a partner who is also trying to be financially savvy can make the holiday shopping experience a little less stressful and a little less lonely.