Piggy bank in Christmas lights

When you think about the holiday season, what comes to mind? It may be known as the most wonderful time of year, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Whether you’re an introvert who feels overwhelmed by holiday gatherings, a parent who must shop and wrap and create seasonal magic, or you’re traveling to visit family, the cost of the holidays can be a stressor for many people. No wonder 84% of respondents in a recent survey said they will try to save money on holiday costs this year. At FVSBank, we want everyone to be able to enjoy this time of year. With thoughtful planning and creative strategies, you can make the holiday season more enjoyable. Here are our best holiday spending tips for staying on budget during November and December.

Make Time for Holiday Budget Planning

Calculate how much you spent last year on holiday-related expenses such as travel, food, gifts, and décor. You can either use that same amount as your savings goal for next year or you may want to adjust your budget.

Think through whom you want to get gifts for and how much you can spend on each gift or person. Focus on how much you can afford to spend in total, not on what you want to buy.

It’s best to set expectations with family and friends early. If your budget does not allow for buying gifts for everyone, it’s fine to suggest that you skip the gift exchange this year. Your friends or relatives may also feel relieved to not have to buy you a gift. Once you are both on the same page, you can discuss spending time together to celebrate instead of sending a gift.

Don’t forget to include other holiday expenses like decorations, food, and travel in your budget. These things can add up fast. Before you buy more greeting cards, wrapping paper, or décor, take a look at what’s left from last year. You may not need much, and you can replenish your stash after Christmas when everything goes on sale.

Download this holiday budget spreadsheet to help you plan your holiday spending.

Start Saving Early

It was projected in 2021 that consumers planned to spend about $1,500 on holiday expenses. If this sounds about right for you there is no reason you can’t start saving right away. Consider $1,500 breaks out to $125 per month or about $30 a week.

Start saving for next year’s holiday season in January. It’s easier to reach a larger goal by breaking the amount into smaller monthly or weekly deposits to your savings account. Of course, you can also start saving for the holidays in any month of the year. Whatever you can set aside in advance will help you enjoy the holidays with less financial stress. You can also shop in advance to cross that item off your to-do list before December comes.

Automate Your Savings

Once you’ve calculated your holiday savings goal and broken it into monthly or weekly increments, it’s time to put your plan into action. Set yourself up for success by putting your savings on autopilot. Simply go into online banking and schedule recurring transfers from your checking account to your savings account. Then you don’t have to think about it or remember and your balance will grow in no time.

family with sparklers having tea party at home

Along with budgeting and saving in advance, incorporate some of these tips and tricks into your holiday plans to avoid overspending.

Along with budgeting and saving in advance, incorporate some of these tips and tricks into your holiday plans to avoid overspending.

1)  Give homemade gifts.
  • If you’re a baker … gift tins of cookies.
  • If you’re crafty … try one of these 65 handmade gift ideas.
  • For everyone else … gift your time or talents such as a coupon for a free night of babysitting, a house cleaning, etc.
2)  Start a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange.

Instead of buying gifts for a large number of people at work, school, or in your family, organize a gift exchange or pool everyone’s resources into one gift.

  • Secret Santa: Each member of the group is assigned another person to gift a present to anonymously. A price cap is set to make the gift exchange easy and fun for everyone.
  • White Elephant: Each person brings a wrapped gift based on price caps and any other parameters. Taking turns selecting a gift, you can either choose a wrapped gift or “steal” another person’s gift that was already opened.
  • Collective Gift: When it comes to a teacher, boss, etc. it may be easier and less expensive for everyone to contribute a small amount toward a gift card or other present.
3)  Throw a pot-luck holiday party or host an open house.

When everyone contributes by bringing a dish or supplies, you will save time and money. A holiday potluck works well for family and friend gatherings as well as office parties.

Another idea is a Holiday Open House. Establish a time range when you’ll be home with cookies, snacks, and drinks out. Guests can stop by anytime during that period to visit. The more casual nature of a holiday open house makes it easier on your wallet and to-do list.

4)  Go digital with holiday cards.

Personalized holiday cards can cost anywhere from $1 to well over $5 each. Plus, the price of a stamp increases every year. Depending on the size of your mailing list, the costs can add up quickly. Switching to digital is an easy way to save money on this holiday cost. You can send e-cards or a simple email with a photo and message inside.

5)  Take advantage of cashback perks and credit card rewards points

If you use a credit card anyway, you should be earning credit card rewards points or cash back. If you save up these points or dollars through the year, you can use them for holiday purchases at the end of the year. You can also earn cash back on debit card purchases with a Kasasa Cash Back Checking account.

6)  Shop after the holidays.

If you’re not visiting out-of-town family or friends until after the holidays are over, consider waiting to shop until those end-of-year sales are live. Bonus points for reusing gift bags you saved from your own gifts.

7)  Start a new tradition

Of course, not everything in the holiday season has to be about spending and shopping.  Spending time with loved ones and starting new traditions can be more rewarding than the newest gadget. The Fox Valley area in Wisconsin is full of memorable use a credit card and things to do.

A family building a snowman

Open a Holiday Savings Account!

The winter holidays are supposed to be a time of fun and togetherness with friends and family. Stressing about how you’re going to pay for gifts and other expenses should not be part of the experience. Let us help you budget for the holiday season with a Holiday Club Account. This interest-bearing (link to rates page)savings account is an easy way to save throughout the year for end-of-year expenses. Funds are automatically deposited into your checking account in late October. To learn more about Holiday Club or our other savings accounts, open an account online, give us a call, or stop by a local branch in Fond Du Lac, Waupun, or Oshkosh.