Planning Ahead for the Winter Holiday Season

That’s My Budget, and I’m Sticking To It!

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Planning ahead can help alleviate some of the stress that accompanies this very exciting, but busy, time of the year. When you have enough money saved in the bank, giving gifts is a much more enjoyable experience all around. You can concentrate on getting the right gift for that special family member or friend, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by having to spend money you don’t have. Many people buy more than they can afford and the “Ghost of Holiday Past” ends up haunting them every month in the New Year—in the form of a credit card payment.

  • Develop a budget and stick to it. Write a list of everyone on your gift list and determine how much you want to spend on each person. You should also include costs for cards, postage, gift wrapping, holiday meals out, parties, travel, and any other miscellaneous items. Bring your list when you hit the stores, as it is easy to shop impulsively during this time of year.
  • Shorten your gift list. Is it really necessary to buy everyone on your list a present? Consider sending a thoughtful holiday card or e-mail, or even writing a family newsletter to update everyone about the past year.
  • Get creative with your gift giving. Handmade gifts and personalized coupons can be the most thoughtful gifts. Think about your own talents as well as what the person may need. For example, knit a blanket or sweater; bake some cookies; create a photo album of your favorite pictures (decorate the cover of the album with a colorful title); or give them a coupon for a special dinner at your house, babysitting time, or even a house cleaning! The list is endless.
  • Draw names. If you belong to a big family or have many friends, suggest this idea so that each person has to buy only one gift.
  • Shop early and compare prices. There are great bargains and sales to be found—even during this time of year. In the future, when you see a great gift for a family or friend during the year—buy it! Not only do stores offer special promotions and discount prices throughout the year, but this will also save you time during the holidays and help you spread your spending throughout the year. Just don’t forget to put your gifts in a safe place so you know where to find them when it’s time to give them away!
  • Shop online or by catalogue. It’s fast, it’s easy, and you can comparison shop! In addition, since you’ll probably be ordering gifts from the comforts of your home, the temptation to eat out or to make unplanned purchases will be greatly reduced.
  • Save money. Continue adding to your holiday fund each week. If your budget is tight, find ways to cut back on your daily spending (e.g., no morning latte, bring a lunch to work, give up your weekly movie, etc.), and put that extra cash toward gifts.
  • Pay off your credit card. If you are planning to shop with a credit card, make sure you have enough in your bank account to pay off the amount at the end of the month. Also, consider using cards that offer extra incentives such as frequent flyer miles.
  • Donate more than cash. Contact your favorite local charity and see if they take donations in other forms than just cash (e.g., canned goods, clothing, furniture, books, etc.).

Holiday Savings Accounts

Some banks and credit unions offer special holiday savings accounts that don’t allow withdrawals before the holiday season. These holiday club accounts are designed to help you save for the holidays all year long. You can open some with as little as $10 and make deposits through payroll deductions or by transferring funds from a savings or checking account. The interest rates are usually low, but this is a good way to discipline yourself into saving money throughout the year and having cash when you need it.

If your financial institution does not have a specific holiday savings account, you can use your own savings account or create a new account specifically for holiday savings (or other special events throughout the year). The key is tracking your deposits and making sure you don’t withdraw money until it is time.

The earlier in the year that you put money into some kind of holiday savings account, the more time you will have to accumulate a nice lump of cash to put towards gift buying.

This article is used with permission from Choose to Save and the American Savings Education Council.

Choose to Save & The American Savings Education Council. (n.d.). Planning ahead for the winter holiday season. Retrieved November 30, 2016, from