Did you overspend last holiday season? When January rolled around, did you face credit card debt with no real plan to pay it off? If so, don’t despair—you’re not alone. My husband and I had one holiday season like that, and we quickly learned to make a holiday spending plan that we stuck to.
If you want to rein in your spending, now is the time to make that plan and talk to your loved ones. Although the conversation might be awkward, you’ll feel much better in January 2024 when you’re not facing new debt from the holidays.
How to Make Your Holiday Spending Plan
Christmas is about ten weeks away, so don’t waste time implementing a plan.
Decide How Much You Have to Spend
The first step is deciding how much you have to spend on gifts. If you only have 100 dollars to spend on gifts this year, that’s all you have, and you’ll need to plan how to maximize that money or make more money before Christmas.
Once you have your holiday spending plan, you can find creative ways to stretch those dollars.
Make Some Gifts
If money is tight, plan to make some gifts. If you’d like to give a gift to your mail person and your child’s teacher, but you don’t have cash, consider making something like a yummy dessert or a canning jar filled with the ingredients for bean soup, cookies, or brownies.
Make a Plan for Extended Family
Likewise, if your extended family typically exchanges gifts, now is the time to talk to them about that tradition. Some families decide not to give gifts to the adults, but if you still want a gift exchange, consider drawing names and putting a price limit on the presents.
I come from a large extended family (I have over 30 cousins on my mom’s side), so we would draw names every holiday. Each person was responsible for only one gift, and the price limit was 10 dollars. Talk with your family about a cap on the gifts at an amount everyone in the family is comfortable with.
Have a Talk with Your Immediate Family about Fewer Gifts
Once you determine how to handle gifts for the outsiders in your life and your extended family, it’s time to look at your immediate family. If your kids are older, reducing their gifts may be difficult. Instead, you may need to tell them that you must cut back this year and why.
If the kids are still young, this is the perfect time to start a tradition of only giving a few gifts. Many families give four gifts—something to wear, something to read, something you need, and something you want. I haven’t gone that minimalistic, but over the years, we have gradually reduced the number of presents the kids receive.
If you don’t want to cut down on the number of gifts your kids receive, remember, there’s no shame in buying secondhand gifts. You can often find items in a secondhand store that haven’t been opened yet, but their price is much lower than retail.
Each of us would like to give our family members everything they want for the holidays, but that isn’t realistic. Instead, develop a holiday spending plan, then make a Christmas buying plan based on your budget. Although you might give fewer gifts, you’ll be happy to be in the black in January rather than facing credit card bills.