Scrutinize Your Holiday Spending

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension


Did you know it takes the average consumer six months to pay off their holiday bills? Although you may be thinking it won’t happen to you, it is easy to get caught up in the material buying of the season. To avoid the trap, set a self-imposed holiday budget.

While drawing up a budget may sound cheap, the exact opposite can be true.

Thinking about how you’d really like to celebrate the holiday can make the season more, not less, meaningful. If you haven’t started yet, now is the time to begin planning. Waiting until the last minute won’t give you time to find the best deals or the items on sale.

First, list the friends and family members with whom you typically exchange gifts. Then, decide if anyone can be cut. For instance, perhaps you can pick names within your family or agree not to exchange gifts with some friends. Once you have the list, assign a dollar value to each person

Try gifts from the heart

Handmade gifts also can stretch your budget. They may not be appropriate for everyone on your list but use some imagination and you may be surprised what happens.

Try a basket of inexpensive items, nicely arranged. Or, combine homemade goods, like chocolate chip cookies, with a purchased item, like a holiday platter, for an appealing gift at a reasonable price. Some family members or friends may appreciate your time more than an expensive gadget. Rather than get a new coffee maker for your great-aunt, could you take her to the movies or help her run errands?

Avoid the credit traps

Don’t buy large items on time. The stores wouldn’t offer the credit if they didn’t expect to make money on it.  Another deal to avoid is any offer to skip a credit card payment over the holidays. You’ll end up paying much more in the long run. 

Shopping for children

Children are bombarded this time of year with catalogs and television commercials featuring the newest and “greatest” toys. To avoid the excessive shopping it will help if catalogs are tossed before they are seen and television commercials are muted so they are not heard. Ask them to identify the items they really want and that are within your budget.

Additional costs

  • If you’ll be traveling over the holiday, start looking for bargains now.
  • When it comes to holiday cards, doing it yourself can pay off. Consider sending a letter on brightly colored paper.

Holiday get-togethers also are part of the fun.  Instead of a fancy dinner, get together for a potluck, dessert or brunch. Even less expensive, pop popcorn and watch a holiday movie.