How To Shop For The Holidays Without Wasting Money Or Feeling Guilty

The day after Christmas can be a mix of happiness and dread. You still feel the glow of holiday cheer while you play with your new presents, but you also feel the rising guilt of how much money you spent to make others happy. It all adds up – from the presents you bought loved ones, the decorations you used for entertaining, the food you made, and the outfits you wore. In return for your shopping sprees, Santa left you some debt for the holidays.

Every year we make the same mistakes – 65% of us plan to spend the same amount this year as we did last year, according to a 2013 survey of over 1,000 shoppers. Some of that spending isn’t even necessary, as the majority (54%) admitted that they plan to return gifts.

Here’s how not to waste money this year.

1. Set a present price limit. Exchanging gifts is fun, but it can get pretty expensive. Instead of guessing how much you should spend, talk about it beforehand. Choose an affordable price range so that both you and the people you’re exchanging gifts with know approximately how much to spend. This way you won’t have to worry about your gift seeming cheap compared to what someone bought you.

2. Give the gift of time. Offer service as a present this year. Think of how much your mom would appreciate you coming over to clean her house. Or cook all the meals for a week, and give your spouse a break. Has your dad been lamenting about his lack of time to complete a house project? Help him out. Your service and time will be more appreciated than a material item.

3. Give homemade gifts. Get creative this holiday season. Instead of buying presents for everyone on your shopping list, make them yourself. Just over half of the respondents to CreditDonkey’s survey said they would like to get homemade gifts this year. Make batches of homemade cookies and package them in a keepsake tin. Tap into your knitting skills and make a scarf. Or put together a photo album of childhood photos or a vacation you took with your spouse over the past year.

4. Do “Secret Santa.” If you’re part of a big family or just don’t have the money this year to get every person a gift, suggest a different way of gift giving. Everyone draws one name from a hat and buys just one present for that person, within a spending limit.

5. Make a budget, and don’t break it. Take a long look at your finances to see what you can actually afford to spend this year. Do your shopping based on that and not based what you gave in previous years or what you’re expecting someone to give you.

6. Buy decorations on clearance. During the days after Christmas, all holiday décor will go on sale. That’s the time to stock up. Everything from ornaments to wrapping paper will be selling for less. For now, buy only the supplies you need for this season, knowing that you can soon buy inexpensively up for next year.

7. Make it a potluck. If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, get everyone involved. Ask your friends and family to bring dishes too. Assign each group of guests to prepare a specific item, and you’ll be able to reduce your financial strain from hosting. Chances are your guests will enjoy helping to make your dinner a success.

8. Check out deal sites. Websites like CouponPal, RetailMeNot, and LivingSocial offer lots of deals throughout the year, and especially around the holidays. You can find coupon codes and expensive gifts at discounted prices in several different categories of products, including cosmetics, clothing, household goods, electronics and more. You can probably find something for every person on your list.

In the season of giving, it may be tough to cut back, but don’t break your budget just for one day of the year. You’ll be proud of yourself later for having the discipline to spend only within your means.

Written By Jasmine W for

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Photo Credit: jimmyrobinson, flickr


Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

Now that we are older, gifts are not that important any more!! Just spending time with family is so much more pleasant and less stressful than wondering what to get the other person!!

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

I tend to spend more each year on gifts even though I would rather do away with gift giving altogether. Next year I will try to do better. I'll set a price limit for myself and those who give me gifts.

Genoveva M.
Genoveva M M4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this article.

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez4 years ago

I make a significant number of the gifts we give. If folks don't like them, that's their problem. I have given a part of myself, and if they are too shallow to appreciate that, then it is their loss. Love John c's comment.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)

Carolanne Powell
Carolanne Powell4 years ago

Give your loved ones the gift of your time & LOVE

Denise Morley
Denise Morley4 years ago

Good advice, thanks.. I bake :)

Barb h
Ba H4 years ago

great ideas

Alex R.
Alex Rodgers4 years ago

i find that using coupons in stores is a pain in the butt, but when I do any sort of shopping online i make sure to search for as many coupons as possible. Now as far as how we should be managing our holiday spending I recently came across an article that was able to help with that area it explains how to create a budget, and some other cool stuff that I found useful.

Marie W.
Marie W4 years ago

Be realistic.