By Mrs. Shay Cook, CEO of Crusaders for Change, LLC (C4C) Accredited Financial Counselor® & Financial Fitness Coach®
As the weather cools down and we look forward to the holiday season, the air is filled with excitement and anticipation. It's a time when we gather with family and friends, exchange gifts, and create memories. However, it's no secret that the holidays can also be a time of financial strain. The pressure to find the perfect gifts, decorate our homes, and host parties and family dinners can lead to overspending and financial stress. A survey from Lending Tree found that 35% of Americans took on holiday debt in 2022 and that 63% of those who took on debt this past holiday season didn’t plan to do so!
Does the season truly bring our hearts joy if we're overspending and depleting our savings? Should we spend and spend to create what we think will mean a magical Christmas for our children if it means accumulating credit card debt? Let’s not look at how the world around us does things, let’s prayerfully approach our holiday season with wisdom from God and place our plans and trust in Him. Psalm 143:8 (NIV) says, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”
At Crusaders for Change, we help individuals and couples learn effective money management behaviors so they can meet their financial goals. I'm excited to share with you some gems of wisdom about joyful holiday shopping and budgeting that won't break the bank, deplete your savings, or send you into credit card debt. Let’s review four ways to embrace the true spirit of the season (love, gratitude, and connection with one another) while staying budget-smart and still enjoying some holiday shopping.
1. The Importance of a Holiday Budget
First things first–before we dive into practical tips for holiday shopping, let's discuss why having a holiday budget is essential.
Imagine your holiday budget as your trusty roadmap, guiding you through the season's expenses and helping you reach your destination of a joyous celebration without financial worries or debt. Here are a few reasons why creating a holiday budget is crucial:
A Budget Prevents Overspending Without a budget, it's easy to lose track of your spending. Creating a budget helps you set limits and prevents overspending, which can lead to debt and post-holiday financial stress. Don’t know where to start in creating a budget? Schedule a free clarity call with us!
A Budget Reduces Your Holiday Stress Knowing exactly how much you can spend and having a plan in place reduces stress. It allows you to enjoy the season without constantly worrying about your bank balance.
A Budget Helps You Prioritize A budget allows you to prioritize your spending. You can allocate funds to what truly matters to you and your loved ones, whether it's gifts, experiences, or charitable donations.
A Budget Helps You Avoid Impulse Spending Budgeting encourages thoughtful, intentional spending. You're more likely to make conscious choices and avoid impulse purchases.
2. How to Create A Holiday Budget
Now that we understand why a holiday budget is essential, let's review some basics of creating one.
Assess Your Finances Start by reviewing your current financial situation. Calculate your total income for the holiday season, including any bonuses or extra income. Next, list all your expenses, including gifts, decorations, travel, food, and entertainment.
Set Clear Spending Limits Based on your assessment, set clear spending limits for each category. Be realistic and consider what you can comfortably afford without resorting to credit card debt or dipping into savings.
Prioritize Your Spending Identify your priorities for the season. What brings you and your loved ones the most joy? Do you love spending quality time together and doing activities? Is hosting family meals very important to you? Is your love language giving meaningful gifts? Allocate a larger portion of your budget to whatever priorities work best for you and your family.
Create a Detailed Shopping List If you’re a gift-giver, write out a comprehensive shopping list that includes everyone you plan to buy gifts for, along with gift ideas and estimated costs. Stick to this list to avoid impulse purchases. Don't forget to account for non-gift expenses like holiday meals, travel, and decorations. These costs can add up, so include them in your budget.
Look for Savings and Discounts Take advantage of holiday sales, discounts, and coupons. Shop strategically to get the best deals on gifts and decorations.
Consider Homemade and Thoughtful Gifts Remember, the most meaningful gifts often come from the heart. Consider homemade gifts or experiences that create lasting memories.
Track Your Spending Keep a record of every single expenditure throughout the season. Be detailed. Don’t just record the bigger purchases. Even small items, like dinner napkins and paper plates, or small stocking stuffers, can add up big time. This will help you stay on track and make adjustments if necessary.
3. Holiday Shopping Strategies
Now that you’ve got your holiday budget in hand, you’re ready to shop! Here are some of our favorite budget-friendly strategies for holiday shopping.
Start Shopping Early Begin your holiday shopping early to spread out expenses and avoid last-minute rush purchases.
Shop Online Online shopping often offers a wider selection and competitive prices. Plus, you can compare prices and find the best deals from the comfort of your home.
Use Cash or Debit Cards Consider using cash or debit cards instead of credit cards to prevent overspending. When the cash is gone, it's a clear signal to stop shopping. You could even separate the cash into separate spending envelope categories to help you stay on budget.
Set Gift Exchanging Expectations Have open and honest conversations with friends and family about gift-giving expectations. Consider setting spending limits for group gift exchanges.
Embrace Secondhand and Thrift Shopping Thrift stores and secondhand shops can be treasure troves for unique and budget-friendly gifts, especially for kids!
DIY Decorations Get creative and make your own holiday decorations. It's a fun and budget-friendly way to add a personal touch to your celebrations.
4. Embracing the True Spirit of the Season
As we navigate the holiday season, let's remember that the true spirit of this time lies in faith, hope, love, gratitude, and connection. It's about being present with our Lord and our loved ones. Keep in mind there are many ways to express our appreciation for our loved one’s presence in our lives–and it doesn’t have to be just through gift giving.
Gifts are a beautiful tradition, but they don't define the reason for the season. Your presence, your time, and your love are the greatest gifts you can give. Let these values guide your holiday celebrations.
"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
Holiday shopping and budgeting don't have to be sources of stress and financial strain. Our Accredited Financial Counselors are here to guide you every step of the way–whether you need help getting out of credit card debt, improving your credit score, starting your savings and retirement journey, or anything in between, we are here to help you. Book a free clarity call with us to get started before the holiday rush. And remember, with a thoughtful budget in place and mindful shopping strategies, you can enjoy a joyful and meaningful holiday season without breaking the bank.