How To Keep Your Holiday Spending Under Control

Every year it’s a battle not to go out and buy EVERYONE a gift or multiple gifts. I love to spoil my loved ones, but when you are on a budget, the holiday season can be full of financial landmines. Which is why there is something to realize: we don’t have to buy everyone gifts; in fact, we don’t have to buy ANYONE gifts. We just want to and like to (at least most of us do, anyway)!


Holiday spending time is really a time to be honest, and if when you look at your bank account and know in your heart of hearts that you shouldn’t buy anyone anything — don’t!  Paying rent, keeping food in your belly and a small safety net in place are all clearly more important. So you’re a college graduate in an entry level position — so are your friends, most likely, and they will understand the position you are in, no apologies necessary. Being financially responsible and stable is the gift we want to give ourselves. Being a good friend or family member is obviously not something we can gift wrap. Instead, plan a festive potluck, go see holiday lights together — make a new tradition all your loved ones can partake in. Choose a theme for your party: white elephant, pajama, peppermint cocktail party. Get creative and keep it simple.  Turn your living room into a cozy place to stretch out and lounge with comfy pillows and soft blankets where your friends and family can catch up together on the year and make plans for the next. An evening of warm drinks and quality time is better than any material gift.

However, if there is a little extra money but the gift selection must be narrowed down, this is who I plan to please: Kids only! Think back to when you were a kid and remember the excitement that a shiny wrapped present brought, or how colorful tissue paper flew as you ripped into it. No, we don’t want to teach kids that the holidays are just about presents, but kids, in my opinion, make the holidays the most fun. So whether it’s a niece, nephew, or a bestie’s baby, when I have to be financially cautious, that’s who I spoil.

When times are a bit better but the list is long, set a budget per head. Here’s an example:

  • $20 or less per close friend or family member

  • $35 or less per couple

  • $10 or less per co-worker*

*It’s easy to get pressured into gift giving at the workplace. While this is no place to feel obligated, as you receive gifts you do feel a bit lame when you are empty handed. I have often found myself working in small companies or close departments where co-workers become family, so I have found it customary to make or buy something sweet or useful to give. I stick to the budget and give everyone the same thing or a variation of it. If you are not the receptionist or admin, then plan to get each of these people the same gift too.

They deserve a gesture of your gratitude, and a share in your holiday joy!