6 Tips to Avoid Crazy Holiday Spending This Year and Next

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Catherine Alford. Cat is a freelance personal finance writer who blogs at www.BudgetBlonde.com

Wow, I forgot how crazy the holidays get here in the States! Why were there three Christmas aisles at every store in October? It’s so overwhelming to me, and I feel like I have some fresh perspective on the American holiday season having been out of the country for two years.

If there’s one thing I learned from living in the Caribbean for so long, it’s that we just don’t need a lot to be a happy. We don’t need a lot of Christmas junk. We don’t need 5,000 decorations, and we don’t need to go wild at a Black Friday sale. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to go to a Black Friday sale (okay, okay, if somehow my baby cribs go on sale for $50 a piece, I will go. It’s very unlikely, but hey, I have to buy two cribs since I’m having twins, so have mercy on me!)

All that said, there are a lot of ways that we can avoid crazy holiday spending this year AND next year! Here’s how:

This Year


1.      Only Buy For Your Family and Your Best Friend

Holiday gift giving is so awkward. Inadvertently, someone will send you a Christmas gift, only to find out that you didn’t have one already purchased for them. To those people, just simply say thank you. I know it’s hard but you don’t need to waste money on a pile of “just in case” gifts to give to people. Just say, “Thanks! That’s so thoughtful!” and send them a thank you note. Remember, most gifts are quickly forgotten as the months go by. Plus your coworkers already have 42 scarves each, so buy gifts for the people closest to you and don’t fret about the rest!


2.      Bake Your Heart Out

One inexpensive way to get through the holiday season and send some awesome gifts out into the world is to bake! Most people would absolutely love a loaf of homemade bread or Christmas cookies. This is great for aunts and uncles, grandparents, and other people who already have more material items than they could possibly need!


3.      Give the Gift of Experience

One thoughtful gift you could give is a card that has a completely written out plan for how you’re going to spend the day together with someone. So, if you wanted to spend more time with your sister, you could give her a card that says, “Eligible for one girls night sleepover just like when we were kids.” Then, make sure to actually pencil it in your calendar! I feel like so many people give the gift of “coupons” for a date night and things like that but never use them! So, give the gift of thoughtfulness and actually follow through!


Next Year


4.      Save As You Go

It would be hard to save up for Christmas for this year, so let’s start fresh for next year. If you know that you spend a certain amount on the holidays, go ahead and start putting aside that money every month. It will feel so great to be proactive and have a nice savings account ready to go. This will stop you from overspending and it will also prevent you from going into credit card debt just because society tells us it’s the season of giving.


5.      Buy Throughout the Year

I am always thinking ahead for Christmas and birthday gifts. If I see something I think my sister would like and it’s a good price, I will go ahead and buy it for my sister, my two sisters-in-law and maybe even my mom and mother in law too. In the past, I’ve given the women in the family jewelry, organizers, monogrammed towels, lotions, etc. and I’ve thought about most of them way ahead of time. It just makes things much less stressful when you have it all planned out.


6.      Adopt the “4 Gift Rule” for Kids

It might be hard for kids to adjust to fewer gifts at first, but if they are awesome gifts, I bet they won’t care. I love the “4 Gift Rule” which stands for “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” Come on; you know your kids are going to get a million gifts from their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, so don’t spoil them too much at home!

Of course, these aren’t the only ways to beat the crazy holiday spending this year and next so I want to hear from you!

How about you all? Do you always have a big Christmas celebration or a small one? Do you buy lots of gifts to family and friends or make them yourself? Would your kids be upset at only getting 4 gifts?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bethcanphoto/3065695690/sizes/m


  1. I know quite a few people that bake and make cards as their gifts each year. It’s not only a fun way to spend time with their kids but it also saves them a ton of cash. The 4-gift rule for kids is great as well.
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  2. W’s family is very big, so now we just do a secret santa. It makes it so much easier because we don’t have to buy presents for like 10 adults! Now, we just each buy one plus presents for each kid.
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  3. I love Christmas and gift giving, but the cost of the presents vary from year to year and person to person. For extended family (like aunts, uncles- and I have lots of them), I buy throughout the year when I find things on sale or make something. With friends, we usually do a secret Santa or white elephant and a budget is always set; it’s fun and not a lot of money needs to be spent. For acquaintances, like our building’s superintendent, we re-gift.
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  4. We’re not into holidays anyway, so we’ll cook regular meals and just enjoy the time with the family. We need to save money for our daughter’s birth, so right now nothing else matters to us (to be honest in the past years we didn’t prepare for a child and still were pretty frugal :)).
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  5. Since enrolling in our debt management plan we have significantly reduced the amount of gift giving that we do. For extended family we now play a game for nominal prizes (we each bring one small gift) instead of a full fledged gift giving. For our own family Vonnie and I just set a limit to spend on each other, and we usually take the top 4 items or so from the kids’ lists. Kids can get new toy overload if you buy them new stuff anyway and you end up with never played with toys sitting in the corner.
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  6. I love Christmas and I only buy gifts for my family. Next month I will start looking for a gift and I do have a gift list so nothing to worry about. I love to see the smile on their face after they open my gift.
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  7. I like your 4 gift rule for kids. We don’t even give our kid that much, though. We give one big present, and then a stocking with candy and little things in it. We stopped giving gifts to extended family adults some years ago. It had gotten crazy trying to buy gifts for everyone. We still give gifts to kids in the extended family, although as they become older, we have found that they appreciate money more than anything. My wife has gone a little nuts with charitable gift giving this year. She’s been donating time at the Family Giving Tree and sees all sorts of things that needy kids want. But I suppose that’s OK. It’s only added a few hundred dollars over what we normally give to charity.
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  8. To save money, my family opts to play White Elephant instead of buying everyone a gift. Now, we just have to spend near the $25 limit instead of worrying about individual gifts for everyone!
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