Tips to make your holiday budget work

When it comes to budgeting and saving money so that you can enjoy the holiday season, it all begins with planning. The goal of this up-front effort is to maximize your funds so that you can shop, travel, and enjoy every aspect of your holiday traditions. Below, we provide you with some strategies on how to stick to your holiday budget by reviewing just about every area of your anticipated spending. But first, when it comes to setting your budget, consider some of these perspectives.

Be open. Over the next few months speak with those that you intend to spend the holidays with. See what everyone has in mind and try negotiating what is best for you concerning your budget and time. In doing so, you will be able to plan for the worst, or best-case scenarios.

Be honest. What do you enjoy doing over the holiday season? Are your traditional activities absolutely essential for you to enjoy this year’s holiday season? Will your anticipated plans cause any level of stress or concern? Taking this time to reflect a bit will help you to establish a need versus want model for yourself.

Here are just a few suggestions/examples to help guide your holiday budget with shopping, traveling, and participating in the holiday spirit.


While considering how and what to spend, keep the below ideas in mind.

Gift cards

Use Visa gift cards while shopping. This will establish a framework in which you can refrain from overspending on gifts, groceries, etc. As a rewards member of AmeriChoice, we can offer you between 2-4 Visa Gift Cards per calendar year depending on the level of your membership. Include your kids in the holiday spirit by having them shop with you for family or friends. This can be a valuable learning opportunity. Have them practice with the gift cards and learn the meaning of a spending limit (budget).

When deciding what to purchase for your family, friends, or coworkers, selecting the right gift and at the right price can be stressful. Consider buying gift cards. It will allow those receiving the gift card to pick out exactly what they want at the budget you set. Popular examples could include a gift card to a restaurant or an iTunes card. Most of these start at just $25 each. To make a gift card less impersonal, keep in mind the things you know they enjoy and choose accordingly.

Create vs. Buy

If your back is really up against the wall and you don’t have funds to buy gifts, but you still want to participate in the giving spirit, create something. It’s not uncommon for people to use their talents to create gifts for their friends or family. Whether you sew a new blanket or pillowcase for your niece or nephew, whip up a homemade cookie mix-in-a-jar or create simple custom coasters your gifts will be personal and one-of-a-kind. The objective for most people is to give gifts that are meaningful, and what is more meaningful than you investing your time, effort and creativity into a personal and thoughtful gift.

Gifting Games

Another low-cost option could be participating in games such as the Secret Santa. This is a very common way of involving everyone in giving without breaking the bank, especially in the workplace during holiday parties or family and friend reunions. It’s a respectable way of having everyone purchase one gift, and at approximately the same price. Yankee Swap or White Elephant Swap are also popular options as well.

Sales Deals

If you haven’t procrastinated too long in your planning process, be attentive of nearby promotions and make the most of sales and major deals at your shopping hubs. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two excellent opportunities to find deals from major retailers. If you have memberships to specific stores, you can take advantage of individual savings and reward points. Also, don’t forget to consider coupons for select stores. They might also contribute to more significant savings on your purchases.


If you don’t have funds available and you intend to spend during the holidays on credit, be sure to do so conservatively. Don’t forget that putting purchases on credit cards is the same as taking out a loan. Consider every aspect of why you are borrowing. If you must use credit, use one credit card and limit yourself (and your family) to a budgeted amount, like the Visa gift card example above. Do not spend or borrow more than your card limit because service fees or penalties could be tacked on. If a more traditional loan is a route you intend to go, try and select a service with a low APR. And after the holidays season, pay off the debt as soon as possible.


If for any reason you do not have the time or effort to participate in any of the above suggestions, regifting is always an option. It’s probably more common than you think. Everyone has likely received a gift that was given with the best of intentions but that didn’t hit the mark in terms of size, need or style preference. If items are in good repair rather than donate them, maybe a friend or family member would enjoy receiving them. Just try not to be too obvious about it.


In most instances, the quickest form of travel for long distances, and sometimes the most convenient, is by air. However, it can get costly, especially over the holidays. Unless you are flying from east to west coast or internationally, consider the possibility of driving. Sure, it might take you a little longer to get there, but you could potentially cut your spending in half, if not more.

Another consideration when choosing to fly is your travel to and from the airports. You could park your car at the airport where you dock, but you might have to pay expensive parking fees. Also, consider having someone you know pick you up at your destination. Otherwise, you will have to pay for a cab, Uber or Lyft. If you do not like driving and you are close enough to a metropolitan area, use the subway or trains.

To spend as little as possible on travel, stay home and plan local trips during the holiday season, or simply save for next year. Purchasing plane tickets well in advance will also save you money.


Instead of spending money for commercial holiday light spectacles, identify alternatives. If you are located within an area that is well-known for light displays, such as a neighborhood or city, walk around. You will reduce your spending on filling up the gas tank (gas prices are usually higher during the holidays anyway) and by avoiding entrance fees.

Perhaps you have a large family or group of friends or both. Instead of planning an elaborate Friends Thanksgiving or holiday party at a public venue, cut the number of invitees down to essential guests only and host the event in your own home. You won’t have to rent the site, and you may also be able to save on food by cooking yourself.

There are a multitude of new movies, concerts, theatre shows, and themed events that come out and make the holiday season magical every year. Instead of going out to experience the newest and grandest spectacle, consider staying home. There are a lot of rerun marathons on television, and everyone has DVD collections of the classics. Waiting a little while may help you minimize your disappointment and exposure to “flops” and allow you to have more interaction with those you are sharing the experiences with.

Bonus tips

Having an effective holiday budget starts with planning. Start saving as early as possible for next year. Set aside a holiday savings account. Make lists. Sell some stuff. Yes, getting rid of the old stuff not only allows you to make room for the new, but it also could provide you with more spending money. If none of these options are attractive, there is the option of working on the side to earn a little more.

Lastly, having an effective holiday budget means something a little different for everyone. Saving in one area can positively impact the others. However, it is fulfilling to note that many of your purchases may be making an indirect impact. Many retail businesses and organizations that profit from your purchases give a portion of your sale back to charitable causes.

If we can leave you on one note, it would be to remember the true spirit of the holiday season and what it means to many people. Be thankful for what you have and act in ways that help others feel good and make their experiences memorable. We guarantee that you will be on your way of not only having an effective holiday budget but also creating happy holiday memories.