7 Tips to Stay on Budget with Your Holiday Shopping

Person making a shopping list and drinking hot cocoa.

The holiday shopping season is upon us. While this time of year can be exciting – choosing the perfect gifts for your friends and family – it can also be overwhelming. We’ve put together some tips for making your holiday shopping experience easier on your budget and a little bit more enjoyable. 

Whether you're looking for personal gifts or something that's sure to impress, these seven helpful tips can help keep your holiday spending in check and still deliver a lot of joy and smiles.

1. Make a List

Before you do anything, sit down and take some time to make a list. Think about who you want to buy gifts for and what they might like or need. Then identify places where you can buy each of those gifts, whether online or in-store. Not only does this help ensure you get gifts that are thoughtful and meaningful, but it’ll save you time and hopefully money. 

For example, if you choose to brave the crowds and visit stores, at least you’ll know exactly what you are looking for. You can hopefully get in and out faster since you have a list. That can free up time to visit another store or take a quick break to decompress.

2. Set a Budget

The holidays are the season of giving. As tempting as it is to splurge on gifts, it’s important to stay within your means. Create a budget that allows for some flexibility, while ensuring you won’t be dealing with a mountain of post-holiday credit debt. Once you have a budget, stick to it. It might require you to make some sacrifices, but in the long run, you’ll be thankful.

3. Start Shopping Early as Possible

The adage “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” should apply to holiday shopping. Pace yourself. You don’t need to get all your gifts in one day. But you should try to get an early start if you can. A gift here and there and before you know it, you’ll be all done with your shopping. 

Plus, the earlier you start, the better selection you’ll have. The last thing you want is to come up empty-handed and have to resort to desperate measures (more on that later). 

4. To Shop In-Store or Online?

Sometimes the best deals are going to be online. Other times, they might be in-store only. To maximize your savings and stay under budget, you’ll probably be best served doing a combo of both. It all depends on where the deals are to be had. 

And we aren’t necessarily talking about Black Friday or Cyber Monday. One-time sales events often offer the same savings (or more) as the flashy Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales. 

5. Keep your Phone Handy When Shopping

If you want to find the best deals, you’re going to have to compare prices between merchants. Don’t assume one store has the best deal. The fastest way to research prices while you’re out and about shopping is to use your phone. Make sure your phone is charged and ready to go when you need it. When you’re competing with other shoppers, every minute and decision can count!

6. Be Smart about Big Purchases

It’s always fun to provide a WOW factor with gifts. But let’s say someone asks for something or you know they would like something that is typically on sale at a different time of the year. It might be worth putting off buying it now – and waiting until you can snag it at a much better price. Splurging on bigger, pricey gifts that aren’t on sale can all of a sudden put you at risk of going over budget. 

Also, when it comes to things like electronics, who says you have to buy the newest or latest models? Most people on your gift list will be perfectly happy and content with last year’s model. You’ll also reap the savings. 

7. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Let’s be honest. For many of us, holiday shopping can be overwhelming and stressful – even when you’re prepared. But last-minute shopping is even worse. Yes, maybe you’ll avoid the big crowds then, but you’ll likely miss a good selection to choose from. And honestly, if you are in a panic the night before trying to gather gifts, you might not make the most budget-conscious purchases. 

The Bottom Line

Shopping for the holidays doesn’t have to break the bank. You can shop smart and save money by following these simple holiday shopping tips. Start early to avoid the rush, make a list of gift ideas, consider the person when making your choices and stay within your budget. And of course, shop around for deals and take advantage of sales and discounts. Every dollar counts. 

By planning ahead, you’ll be able to have a joyous season without going over budget. Stress less and focus more on the things that make the holidays special for you and your family.