8 tips to rein in holiday spending

Women unwrapping Christmas presents

The expectations surrounding the holidays can cause us to spend more than we can afford. You’re not alone if the pressure’s overwhelming—an Affirm survey found that seven out of 10 Americans typically go over budget during the holidays. You might be thinking, what’s the big deal? The big deal is, once the December décor is put away, the bills are here to stay. Don’t panic, though! You have time to get your holiday spending under control with these eight tips:

1. Use a list to prioritize gift giving

Creating a gift list is just as important as setting a budget. Make a list of whom you plan to give to and how much you want to spend. If you have a holiday savings account, take the total amount you have saved and divide it equally among your list. From there, you can adjust for each person based on whether you want to spend more or less.

Check your list twice, too. It’s easy to forget thank-you gifts for coaches, teachers, the mail carrier, party hosts, etc. Those little, last-minute gifts can add up (and eat your budget)!

2. Know what drives your spending

Whether you can’t pass up a deal or are trying to sprinkle in some holiday magic for your family, recognizing what triggers your spending can help you stop. Carry your list with you, even if you finished shopping. If you find a killer deal or a gift you think would be even better than what you’ve already bought, use your list to remind you that you finished spending.

3. Shop with gift cards or credit card rewards points

Got a bunch of gift cards lying around? Save some cash and use them to snag a few gifts. Or, consider cashing in your credit card rewards points. If you have a Visa Signature®, Visa® Platinum, or Student Visa, you earn Flex Rewards points1 that can be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards—perfect if you’re a last-minute shopper or just looking to save a few bucks!

4. Know the difference between cost and value

If you managed to find a $150 Keurig on sale for $70, the Keurig is still worth $150. Just because you saved $80 doesn’t mean you owe the recipient an additional $80 in gifts. Consider that money saved a win—and put it towards your savings or emergency fund.

5. Limit impulse purchases

Now is not the time to give in to impulse buying—stick to your shopping list. If you just can’t resist, give yourself time to think about purchases before making them. Consider implementing a 48- or 72-hour window between seeing something you want and buying it. After that window is over, you can take the plunge if you’re still thinking about the item.

6. Reduce nonessential expenses

Cut back on any nonessential spending in the weeks leading up to the holidays. This could include eating out less, watching a movie at home instead of hitting the movie theater, or finding a way to DIY holiday decorations. With that money saved, you’ll have a little more cushion in your monthly budget in case unexpected expenses arise.

7. Set spending limits

Establish spending limits for each person on your gift list. This helps you stay within your budget and prevents overspending. Consider communicating these limits to family and friends to manage expectations and avoid any awkwardness. We know discussing money can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to be transparent and set clear guidelines.

8. Track your spending

Keep track of your spending throughout the holidays (if you don’t already). This will help you stay on budget and identify areas to cut back. Various free (or cheap) apps allow you to track your expenses, like YNAB or EveryDollar. Visualizing where your money goes can be a huge help in eliminating any extra spending.

Bottom line

Holiday spending doesn’t have to break the bank. By implementing these eight tips, you can navigate the season with confidence and enjoy the festivities without sacrificing your financial well-being.
Remember, the most important gift is the one you give yourself: peace of mind knowing you’re in control of your finances. So, prioritize your needs, focus on what truly matters, and embrace the joy of the season—without jeopardizing your financial health.


1Georgia’s Own Credit Card points will expire five (5) years from the date earned.

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