How to Keep Your Holiday Gift Spending in Check

By David Hathaway
December 10, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of year. Good food, fun parties, and of course our inner child’s favorite part: gifts!

The holiday gift-giving tradition remains stronger than ever. In fact, consumers plan to spend an average of $935.58 during this year’s holiday shopping season according to the National Retail Federation. That’s the second highest level on record!

Clearly, it is easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and determining a reasonable amount to spend on gifts is a challenge. If you spend too little on a gift for a friend or family member, you may worry you’ll come off as cheap or unappreciative. If you spend too much, you might make the other person feel uncomfortable, and throw your budget out of whack.

Here are some tips to help you keep your spending in check without feeling like a Scrooge this holiday season:

Start with a budget

First, figure out how much you can afford to spend based on your income. The unofficial rule of thumb is to spend no more than 1.5% of your annual income on holiday gifts. Then, make a list of all of your gift recipients and check it twice (Santa’s watching). Shop for the most important people first: your spouse, kids, parents, etc. Then use whatever is left to buy gifts for your friends, extended family or co-workers.

Organize a Secret Santa event

Simplify your gift-giving and create a fun, festive holiday gathering with a Secret Santa present swap. Secret Santa swaps allow you to set a budget for gifts upfront so there’s no stressing over how much to spend. You can randomly assign gift recipients to each individual within a group. Go low tech by assigning someone in the group to drawing names from a hat, or use sites like Elfster to match people and collaborate on gift ideas secretly before the big reveal.

Give it a theme

Decide on a singular theme that provides gift options for everyone within a reasonable price range. For example, beer fans can buy decide to buy each other six-packs from their favorite microbreweries. Other theme ideas include books, board games, or records for the music-lovers. The best part about a theme is that it will help establish a general price range without having to limit anyone to a specific dollar amount.

Remember, it really is the thought that counts

You hear it all the time, but it’s actually true. Research has shown that that gift-receivers don’t appreciate expensive presents that much more than less expensive gifts. What really matters is being a thoughtful gift giver. Look for gifts that build connections, provide unique experiences, and demonstrate how much you know them. When in doubt you can always ask them to chime in with a suggestion or two.

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