Saving (& Avoiding Procrastination) During the Holiday Season
‘Tis the season to be generous … but are you even just a little bit too generous this time of year?
I know that I can get carried away sometimes. The holiday spirit just hits different! I get the warm fuzzies and want to make this time of year a little extra special for the people I care about in my life. This even extends to strangers when I carry some cash to drop into a red bucket, make an online donation, or take a tag from a tree at a local business so I can do a bit more guilt-free shopping.
You, too, huh?
We’re not alone! According to the 2023 Deloitte holiday retail survey, shoppers are expected to spend more than they have since 2019 — and 14% more than they did last year. And that same survey pegs the average spend at $1,652 for this holiday season. That’s a heck of a lot of holiday spirit!
Maybe (like me) you already spent too much over Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. That means it’s time for a season of savings — mixed in with the gift-giving and holiday cheer, of course!
If you, like me, maybe spent too much all on yourself and still have literally all of your gifts to buy, where to begin? Here! I’ll share how we can make the most of the holiday and giving season to come (and figure out where our extra $1,652 or so is going to come from!).
The Pressure Is On
When it comes to cash, this year is a little … different.
For one, folks with federal student loans started repayments just last month, putting a crunch on budgets after not making payments since early 2020. Going more than three and a half years without making payments in the hundreds or thousands of dollars each month is making for a tough adjustment for many just ahead of the holidays.
While unemployment is low, it increased slightly in October. And the strain of unemployment can be extra difficult this time of year — heightened, even, as some businesses wind down hiring ahead of winter holidays.
Ok, so now we’re looking at this holiday season with a foothold in economic reality. But really, it’s still the holiday season! So let’s get into the fun part — while keeping it within your means and even doing a little saving, too.
Make It Meaningful
When it comes to major retailers, anyone can shop pretty much anywhere and buy pretty much anything for themself. Thanks, internet and global supply chain! So then logic says that the precious people in your life to whom you’re thinking about giving mass-produced gifts could buy them for themselves. Follow?
So why not make the gifts you give extra meaningful? Shop your local holiday makers’ markets. Create something yourself (yes, food counts!). Make your 2023 gifting magical by buying local or creating something unlike any of the other gifts they’ll get this year. You’ve still got time!
My partner, Zack, recently received a hand-made wooden cribbage board from his father for his birthday. Yes, it’s beautiful. It’s also unique! And we’re making memories with it by playing with great friends.
Maybe cribbage isn’t your thing. (And you might not be a woodworker, either. Zack’s dad wasn’t before Summer 2023!). One thing we started doing last year is painting ornaments. Yes, it’s a paint set for children, but we’ve made some keepers that we’ve sent to family. And we’ll do it again this year because it’s something special that’s just from us.
And then there are experiences. Will the person you’re gifting to remember that pair of luxury sweatpants you’re thinking about giving them for life? Maybe. Then again, perhaps going with you to a concert, show, or sports game, heading out together on a vacation, or spending a day at a museum, aquarium, or art installation would stick with them longer. (And it might also be way more fun than a pair of sweatpants.) Or you could always pull the ol’ movie trick of surprising someone special on a holiday you celebrate together.
The point I’m getting at is to make the holiday meaningful.
The Deloitte survey also mentioned that people are buying fewer gifts this year to stretch their budgets. Whether it’s spending more on select gifts or sharing an experience in your presence instead of a physical present, if you’re doing the same, know that you’re not alone. You’re on trend!
Avoid Procrastination — and Overspending
Going back to the buying, you might believe that your shop-portunities are done. No more big sales days with specific names. But there are still sales! Retailers big and small still have plenty of merchandise that they want to sell before the start of 2024. If you’ve got shopping to do and haven’t done so already, start asking for others’ wish lists and comparing prices now.
That doesn’t mean you have to start shopping immediately. Quite the opposite. If you begin thinking about buying (at a discount to boot!), you’ll gently nudge yourself to get things done. So create an account through the retail shops you’ll be patronizing or sign into your long-time favorites. Then fill up your online shopping cart … and let it sit.
You might see coupons rolling in for free shipping or an extra percentage off, and they may be worth waiting for. You could also see notifications that an item on your wish list or in your cart is on sale. Woo hoo!
Pro tip: How much of a discount did you get compared to the regular price? Put it into your savings. Every little bit helps!
Another important piece is to find an accountabilibuddy. They could be a friend, family member, or significant other who can help keep you on time and in check. Chat with them about the progress you’re making on your shopping list and how much you’ve saved or spent. If you’ve found a great deal, there’s no need to keep it to yourself! (Although you may also have to remind them that they weren’t planning on purchasing that item!)
If you want to keep your spending low to begin with, what can you do? I’ve never found the online “budgeting tips for the holidays” very helpful. They can be a little … out there. That’s why I say start with a realistic plan in mind and remember that sharing is caring. That is, talk to your friends and family about it! Or maybe it’s creating and sticking to that specific seasonal spending plan. And it could be saving first and spending the rest (without touching that savings, of course!). You might even have a little holiday slush fund to dip into in case you go a little overboard.
Here’s what I’m doing: Zack is my accountabilibuddy. We’re making it a family-focused year, and we’re part of the crowd looking to spend on experiences as opposed to things. We agreed to skip gifting to one another this holiday. Instead, we’re (finally!) going to get our passports. This lets us avoid focusing on spending on one another. Plus, we get to make vacation plans — and sidestep the pressure of having a blockbuster holiday gift under the tree for each other.
Another piece? We’re traveling for three days to see family. We got a great price on plane tickets back in October … but on a budget airline. (Maybe I should start my own realistic list of budgeting tips for the holidays!). That means no room in our luggage for bringing gifts to or from our family in Wisconsin. But we’re planning to see grandparents who we haven’t hugged since before the pandemic. We’re excited to go ice skating at Lambeau Field. And we can’t wait to sit by the fire with family and enjoy an old fashioned along with few games of euchre after a meal together.
Sure, it can be tough to open up to his very generous family about our festive season frugality. But by having our plan set and starting the conversation early, we’re allowing ourselves reason and ability to save (for those international vacations with our passports, of course!). And we hope that, by sharing our plans with family members, it takes pressure off of them to spend on us. The best part? It doesn’t take even the littlest bit away from our holiday fun!
Feel free to borrow — or for my Grinches out there, steal! — any of my holiday tips. Or not! If you’re planning to spend lavishly after COVID wrecked your holiday plans in years past, check out Jason’s blog on making your holiday season survival guide or download my holiday spending game plan so you can thoroughly enjoy your festive season — while keeping your budget in check.
Need to rewind? You can always make a return — but be sure to check the store’s return policy as many retailers are shortening their return windows and making policies more restrictive.
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