It’s that time of year again where merchants and media inundate consumers with the idea that we must shop ’til we drop and find those perfect gifts for everyone in our family. But hold on there! Unbeknownst to the ad agencies pumping out creative spots that grab our attention, we have free will over how much we spend this holiday season.

Obviously, planning early in the year is a great approach to thwart over-spending during the holiday season. Plenty of financially responsible people start shopping and budgeting months ahead of time to alleviate the January “I’ve drained my bank account” blues.

However, if you’re not one of those people who got an early start but still need to keep the spending in check, here are a few ideas to alleviate breaking the bank:

  1. Reduce the amount of gifts you purchase. Instead of buying gifts for everyone in your family (especially if your family is large), propose the Secret-Santa idea to the family instead. Choose one person to focus on so everyone gets thoughtful gifts instead of a smattering of crap. Don’t feel obliged to purchase for co-workers and friends. Instead, let friends know you won’t be exchanging gifts this year and offer to ย host a pot-luck holiday feast.
  2. Opt for homemade gifts. It’s still plenty early enough in the season to make your own gifts. If you’re a talented artist, cook, or wood worker, perhaps you can whip together baskets of goodies, a personalized painting, or small wood engraved plaque for friends and family. However, if your talents are less than stellar in any one area, there are plenty of ideas out there ranging from mason jar gifts to goody baskets to framed photos.
  3. Go for charity. If you’re running short on money and time, another option is to sponsor a charity. Tell friends and family that this year instead of gift-swapping, you’d prefer they donate to a specific charity. It’s a kind and giving gesture.
  4. Just say no. A more drastic and stark approach, tell friends and family that you’re not participating in gift-giving this year. Instead, offer alternatives such as hosting a dinner, spending a day at the theater, or pool your funds for a weekend in the snow.

This year we’re doing a combination of three of these (1-3) to reduce our overall spending so we don’t feel over-stretched come January. It’s a strategy that worked so well last year that ย it deserves a repeat.

What is your holiday spending strategy?

Thanks to those that hosted me in a carnival this week:


Little House in the Valley


  1. Money Beagle Reply

    Our best tool is to create a budget, listing everybody we need to buy for and the amount we plan to spend. Sticking to it is often a bit challenging, but given that we save money throughout the year to cover the total budget, money has not been high on the list of stress causing things during or after the holidays.

    • @Money Beagle – Budgeting is a terrific way to keep the spending in check. The past couple years, we’ve really downsized our gifts and instead of purchasing a gift for every single family member, we’ve bought one family related gift – like a membership to a zoo. It’s cut our costs and made shopping easier.

  2. We are not buying too many gifts this year. Our families are out of town and we’re mostly skipping Christmas this year. I got some toys for the kid, but that’s it. I guess I still need to get something for the Mrs. Maybe cash? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • @Joe – We are fortunate that the majority of our families are out of town. If we had to buy for every single person, we’d go broke!

  3. I’m planning ahead, and putting more thought to what purchases will be made. This year, it will be about setting a cap on expenses up front, while in the past I was responsible of course but gave myself some leeway. Meaning, I was flexible in terms of how much I spent in total. We’ll see how the more disciplined approach goes!

    • @Tie the Money Knot – Great idea. We’ve also been flexible in the past and some years we did great keeping the spending to a minimum and other years spent way more than we should have. The past two years we’ve really gotten our shopping budget under control – no more gifts for every single person in our extended family. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life Reply

    My strategy this year is to do some “budget” gift giving. Hoping to average out around $20 per person for a total of about $200.

    • @Stefanie – That’s a good strategy. Setting a limit per person or a cap on the entire amount is a great way to reign it in.

  5. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich Reply

    Sometimes my family groups gifts by the sub-family to save some cash. So like my different cousin’s families of 4 or 6 would get a bucket of popcorn, a movie theater box of candy, a liter of soda (dollar store) and a Blockbuster (Redbox these days?) gift certificate in a basket and for $7-10 that entire group was done.

    • @Mel – That’s a great idea, especially for extended or large families. I have a very large family, but I usually only purchase gifts for one side – the side that always gives us gifts. We’ve been getting better at keeping it simple. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. femmefrugality Reply

    Love this! I’m an early shopper, but this year I’m DIYing some (and I totally stink at DIY stuff, so if I can do it anyone can.) We’ve done the charity thing in the past, too. It’s actually really fun.

    • @Femme Frugality – I stink at DIY too, but I’m going for it this year as well. I wish you luck, because I know I need some! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. The Frugal Exerciser Reply

    The hubby and I don’t exchange gift and we pull names out of a hat and buy one gift for my immediate family. I never spend too much for the holidays so I’m happy my family started this way to celebrate the holidays years ago.

    • @The Frugal Exerciser – We’ve been thinking of approahing our family with the name out of a hat idea. For just the two of us, it makes more sense since it’s silly for us to buy for everyone and their children. We’d prefer doing it that way. We’ll have to see how our suggestion plays out.

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.