9 Spending Rules to Follow During the Holiday Season

By Rebecca Lake
December 15, 2019

Between all the tempting sales and last-minute purchases, holiday spending can take a serious toll on your budget. 

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to enjoy the holiday season without demolishing your bank account. To help you create your holiday spending plan and budget, here are nine rules you can use to keep your finances on the nice list. Take a look:

1. Start with a holiday budget

The first rule for holiday spending is to create and stick to a budget. 

Creating a holiday budget that outlines what you can realistically spend makes it easier to avoid unnecessary extras. Your holiday spending budget should include the following: 

  • Gifts and stocking stuffers
  • Wrapping paper, ribbons or bows and tape
  • Holiday cards and postage
  • Food for holiday meals
  • Travel if you plan to spend the holidays away from home
  • Entertainment and holiday events
  • Charitable donations

It’s also a good idea to include a miscellaneous category to cover any unexpected expenses that get added on. 

Once you have your list of holiday expenses, set a limit on how much you can afford to spend. 

2. Set up a dedicated holiday savings account

Ideally, you opened a holiday savings account earlier in the year. But if you haven’t done this yet, it’s not too late. 

You can open a savings account and link it to your Chime spending account for easy access. If you worked out your holiday budget and you know exactly what you can spend, you can even schedule automatic transfers to your savings every payday. Or, you can grow your holiday savings by setting up direct deposit from your paychecks to make things easier. 

3. Create a holiday shopping strategy

A shopping game plan is a smart strategy for holiday budgeting. For example, will you do most of your shopping online or at the mall? 

Shopping online can save you time but it has its pitfalls. Many stores offer free shipping over the holidays but only if you spend a certain amount of money. And, if you spend more to qualify for free shipping, you’re not necessarily saving money. 

Take time to browse the sale ads to see how competitor stores price the same items. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday officially kick off the holiday sales season, it’s possible to find deals right up until Christmas Eve. 

Remember: Doing a little homework before you start filling up your cart can help you find the best holiday deals.

4. Check store pricing matching and return policies

Before you make any holiday purchases, check out the store’s return and price matching policies first. Both can save you money and headaches when doing your holiday shopping. 

Price matching is great because some stores will pay you back the difference if you paid more at another store for the same item. If a store doesn’t offer price matching, you may be able to return the item outright and then buy it somewhere else for less money.

5. Track holiday expenses

It’s easy to lose track of holiday expenses. But that’s the fastest way to sabotage your holiday budgeting efforts. 

If you don’t like the idea of hanging on to a bunch of paper receipts, sign up to receive receipts via email or text. And remember, you can always see your holiday spending at a glance in your Chime spending account. 

6. Consider DIY holiday gifts to save money

Shopping for the holidays can be time-consuming and expensive.

One option is to cut your shopping list down and buy for fewer people. Or, you can limit the number of gifts you buy for each person on your list. For example, you might try the four-gift rule if you have kids. 

Another option is to give handmade gifts instead of buying things. A few rules to keep in mind for handmade gifts:

  • Write a detailed list of the materials you’ll need.
  • Estimate how much those materials will cost you to buy.
  • Look around the house to see what you already have.
  • Consider buying materials in bulk to save money. 

7. Use coupons and cash back apps to save on holiday shopping

Coupons and cash back apps can make your holiday spending plan easier and potentially save you hundreds of dollars. With coupons and promo codes, you can take money right off the top of an item’s purchase price. And, cash back apps pay you back when you shop. 

If you’re planning to use coupons, promo codes and cash back apps for holiday expenses, look for opportunities to stack them. 

For example, say you’re at your favorite department store online. You have a 10% off promo code you can use and one of your cash back apps is offering 5% back on purchases. If you can double those up, you’re effectively saving 15%, freeing up money in your holiday budget.

8. Consider going cash-only

Using a debit card for holiday spending is convenient but it’s possible to overspend if you’re not tracking your purchases. The same goes for a credit card – only instead of spending money from your bank account, you’re creating debt that you’ll have to deal with after the holidays. 

Sticking with cash for holiday purchases can help you stay on track with your budget as you’ll only be able to spend money you have on hand. 

9. Start a holiday side hustle to make extra cash

If you’ve crunched the numbers and you still can’t make your Christmas budget work, consider ways you can earn extra money to cover holiday expenses. 

For example, you can declutter and sell unused items around your house, start a holiday pet-sitting service, or do some yard clean-up. 

You might also think about a holiday part-time job or increasing your regular hours at work to make more money. 

Put these holiday spending tips to work

If the holiday season is stressing you out, don’t panic. Remember to put these Christmas budgeting tips to work:

  • Make a holiday spending budget
  • Set aside savings for holiday expenses
  • Shop strategically
  • Check return and price matching policies
  • Track holiday spending
  • Make holiday gifts
  • Leverage coupons and cash back apps
  • Consider a cash-only Christmas
  • Try a holiday side hustle

Here’s a final pro tip: Save even more money this holiday season with Chime, the bank account that has your back. 

Rebecca Lake has been writing about personal finance and business for nearly a decade. Her work has been featured on CreditCards.com, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and other personal finance sites.

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