Holiday Survival Guide

No matter how much you love the holidays and how well you've planned, if you're like most people you'll find yourself frazzled at times. You may find yourself searching for the perfect gift, creating an impressive dinner for guests or scrambling to put the final touches on holiday decorations The best gift you can give yourself is to take time to plan your holidays. Think about what you really want and create a plan for how you want to spend your time, money and energy.

To start planning your holidays, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your best holiday memories?
  • What do you like the most and the least about the holidays?
  • How can you make the holidays less stressful?
  • How can you spend less and still enjoy the holidays?

Before Your First Shopping Trip

Trying to find the perfect gift in one shopping trip isn't always practical, particularly if you're someone who follows the "shop till you drop" approach. Just short of dropping, you may decide you're tired of browsing around and find yourself buying the next thing you see, no matter the cost.

Here are a few suggestions we hope will help make your holidays less stressful and less expensive:

  • Make a holiday budget and stick to it. Set a spending limit when exchanging gifts. Consider the cost for decorations, food, holiday clothes, wrapping paper, cards, and travel. These things add up quickly, make sure to include them in your budget.
  • Make a list of those those you'd like to give gifts. If you find this list is growing, consider drawing names instead of buying for everyone. Start your shopping early and take time to comparison shop for the best prices.
  • Before heading to the mall, know what you want to buy everyone on your list. Take time to browse through catalogs and sales ads so you know where you need to shop to find the gifts you're searching for.
  • Hosting a holiday gathering? If you do any holiday entertaining, buying non-perishables in bulk at discount warehouses may save you as much as 20%.
  • It's a fact! People tend to spend more when using credit cards instead of cold hard cash. To help control credit card spending, don't use more than two credit cards. If you don't want to run up your credit card debt, leave your cards at home. Instead, decide how much you want to spend and shop safely (and protect your purchases) when using your debit card that is linked to a checking account that pays you rewards.
  • Know the retailers sales tactics. Stick to your shopping list and resist the little extra gifts. They add up considerably and can bust your budget. Shop alone and don't shop while you're tired or hungry.
  • Resist the urge to purchase this year's high-priced fad items. Buy gifts that last longer or have stood the test of time. Surprise friends and family with the gift of you by offering to run errands or preparing their favorite homemade meal, babysitting for a date night or simply spend time together. Be a "Secret Santa" by doing a good deed without getting caught.

Money-Saving Tips for Holiday Shopping Online

Try using smartphone apps that can help you save money during the holidays and all year long. Here are just a few:

  • Ibotta – its cashback and rewards features are compatible when you buy gifts from a large assortment of retailers.
  • Shopkick – enables you to earn points called “kicks” you can redeem for gift cards.
  • Retailmenot  – connects users to thousands of coupons and deals from their favorite stores and restaurants.

Popular web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Edge, have plugins or extensions that can help you save money. Here are a just a few:

  • Honey – automatically finds coupon codes for you when you go to a checkout page on any website.
  • Shoptagr  – similar to Honey, with an added feature of “watching” your favorite products to see if prices drop.
  • Rakuten – when this plugin is activated you earn cash back while shopping online.

By implementing some of these money-saving tips and strategies, you’ll successfully come up with a holiday plan and budget that fits your lifestyle.

Stay on Budget with this Holiday Budget Worksheet
More Money Saving Tips and Budgeting Tools from Knowledge of Financial Education (KOFE)

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