Money·3 min read

How to Save During a Spending Season

Nov 18, 2019

We're bringing you tips and tricks to Celebrate Smarter this holiday season. Check it out.

The Story

You feel it in your fingers. You feel it in your toes. The holidays are coming...but your budget cannot grow.

Yeeeah. So how do I NOT blow it?

By setting a spending limit — for gifts, wrapping paper, stamps, travel, decorations, events, and any other holiday expenses you can think of.

One rule of thumb is to spend around 1.5% of your annual income. You can also look up old bank or credit card statements to see what you spent last year. Assuming that didn’t leave you with a credit card debt hangover, try that number again. If it did, adjust...either by spending less this time around or looking for ways to save extra money quickly.

Related: How to 50/20/30 Your Budget

Got my limit. Can I shop now?

Almost. First, break down that big number into categories. This is the part where you list everyone you’re buying a gift for. Plus extra stuff, like plane tickets and ingredients for your office cookie swap. If you can’t cover everything on the list, don’t up your limit. Cut names. Or expenses. Extra credit for keeping track of what you spend so you don’t accidentally overdo it.

For when you’re trying to spend less on gifts…

Download price-comparison apps and browser extensions that apply promo codes (we see you, Honey) — so you never pay more than you have to. And try filling up your online shopping cart...then ghosting. Retailers don’t want to lose your biz, so you might get an email with a discount code to complete your purchase.

Related: theSkimm on Holiday Gifting Without Spending (Too Much) Money

For when your presence is the present… 

Be flexible. Day-of travel, red-eye flights, and layovers aren’t fun. But they might be the cheapest way. So is shipping gifts straight to your destination to skip the heavy luggage fees.

Related: Up, Up, and Away

For when you’re the hostess with the mostest...

Making DIY ornaments, slow-rolling past the Christmas lights in your hood, and volunteering for a local charity are all affordable QT options. If you’re in charge of holiday dinner, ask guests to bring an app, side or dessert. PS: making wine spritzers with juice or soda water helps each bottle last longer.

Related: Easy Ways to Save Money on Food

And I can press pause on my other goals until the new year, right?

Nice try. The holidays aren’t an excuse to break good habits. So don’t change your 401(k) contributions, borrow from your emergency fund or swipe your credit card and hope Visa cancels your debt as a holiday gift. Keep your long-term goals in mind to stay motivated when BOGO sugar plum candles start calling your name.

Pro tip: Open a special savings account just for holiday costs, and add a little something every paycheck.


You’re probably going to eat, drink, travel –– and spend –– more than usual during the holidays. Setting a limit and sticking to it can help keep you in check. So you can spread joy without spreading yourself too thin.

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