How to plan for the holiday season without busting the budget.

New York Life | November 13, 2019

Updated November 6, 2023

It’s all too easy to overspend during the holiday season. No matter what you celebrate, there may be gifts, new clothes, and food and drink to factor into your holiday shopping list.

Everyone wants to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest, but you don’t want a January that includes worrying about your finances. Luckily, there are lots of ways to celebrate in style without breaking the bank. Here are eight tips:

1. Create a (realistic) budget

Don’t decide on an arbitrary number and make that your budget. Go back over what you spent last year and create a true-to-life picture of your expenses. Factor in any changes in lifestyle in the past year, such as getting married, buying a house, the birth of a new child, etc. Once you have a real view on what you will spend, you can start looking for places to curb your costs.

2. Suggest doing a 'white elephant' gift exchange with family, friends and co-workers

Only having to buy one gift stretches your money further and eliminates a lot of the stress around holiday shopping. It’s especially perfect for large families, where you don’t want to buy for everyone but don’t want anyone to feel left out.

3. Use your phone to find the best price

If you see that must-have item in a store or online, price check it on your phone to see if it’s cheaper somewhere else. You can also use your phone and search engines to find promo codes for many retailers. A lot of stores also have price-match policies that you can use.

4. Get creative

Homemade gifts and decorations are often the most cherished and appreciated. Children love arts and crafts, so making decorations not only saves money, but creates festive memories for everyone.



5. Don’t wait until the last minute

The early bird catches the worm, and this is especially true when it comes to doing holiday shopping early. The longer you wait, the more retailers can increase prices. Make a November resolution to get all your shopping done early this year.

6. Rotate hosting duties

Hosting can get expensive—food, beverages, party favors, and decorations. If you do Christmas Eve, for example, let someone else take on New Year’s Eve. This works especially well for family gatherings. If you are hosting, be sure to buy in bulk — wine, canapes, chips and dip.

7. Cut or freeze other expenses for the duration of the holiday season

If you’re traveling or just not motivated, see if you can consolidate your music expenses with your family into one Spotify account, for example. Look to do the same with other expenditures, such as streaming services and kids activities.

8. Remember we’re all in the same boat

Everyone overspends on the holidays. There’s a good chance that if you suggest a way to save money, everyone will be delighted. This includes setting limits on what you spend on gifts for each other or encouraging everyone in the family to make a dessert or side dish. 

For help budgeting all aspects of your financial life, contact a financial professional.


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Media contact

Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937