Exhausted woman in a Santa hat sitting with a long shopping list of gifts, surrounded by bags and gift boxes, vector illustration, EPS 8

Christmas shopping on a budget

The holidays have long been synonymous with spending money. This year, as inflation weighs on people’s wallets, there will be challenges for those already on tight budgets. Indeed, it can be easy to overspend. According to a recent survey, last year’s holiday spending levels left more than one quarter of Americans regretting some of their buying decisions. 

How can you celebrate an exciting holiday season without damaging your financial health? The key is in the planning. Here are a few tips to spend less and save more this year:

n Create a budget.Figure out who and what you’ll be shopping for, along with any other expenses you might run into this holiday season. Gifts, decorations, parties – they all need to be included. Assign a budget for each category to establish parameters for your spending. This approach also helps you adjust if your plans need to change. Perhaps someone else volunteers to host the holiday party, freeing up that budget to be used to cover some gifts you wanted to purchase.    

n Make a list (and yes, check it twice). If you start shopping without a list of gifts you need, you can easily end up with things you don’t need, like a new sweater for the dog, but no gift for a niece. Keep your list updated by tracking ideas and purchases. I encourage people to use the Notes app on their phones for easy access to make updates.

n Compare prices before you buy. Look up prices online and check multiple retailers to make sure you’re getting the best deal. If you see a lower price at a store after you’ve bought an item, check whether the store offers price adjustments. If you know what you’re looking for, there are ample opportunities to shop various sales and deals, whether it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday. 

n Get creative. A store-bought gift might be fine for some folks on your list, but for others, maybe a homemade (and more cost-effective) gift would be better to show how much you care.  Repurposing existing materials or visiting second-hand stores could offer additional ways to minimize your spending.

n Enjoy free entertainment. There’s no time like the holidays to find free fun. Search out events in your community, like tree lightings or sleigh rides, where all you spend is a few dollars for a hot chocolate. Then look closer to home to engage friends or family in a holiday movie marathon or a hotly contested dreidel match.

n Check your interest rates. Last year, 65 percent of holiday spending was paid for with credit cards. Before you use your credit card this holiday season, make sure you’re getting the best interest rate. If your annual percentage rate is higher than you’d like, consider using a card with a lower interest rate or transferring your balance. Seek out offers with lower interest rates for those with good credit, along with offers for cards that allow you to earn cash back on purchases. A few minutes of homework about your credit cards could pay off in big savings over the holiday season. 

~  Teresa Grier is vice president, market manager, at Valley Bank, Alexander City branch. She has been banking in the area for 35 years.