4 tips to stay on budget this holiday season

If you're feeling nervous about holiday expenditures, here are some tips to keep your budget in check amid the merriment

Holiday spending
A crucial part of keeping your holiday spending on track is to go in with a plan
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Overall, holiday spending is expected to go up this year, Bloomberg reported based on a new Deloitte survey of over 4,000 U.S. adults. But for those facing the economic realities of student loan payments resuming and real wage growth stalling, those increases will be more modest.

According to Bloomberg's reporting on the Deloitte survey findings, "shoppers with yearly household incomes between $50,000 and $99,999 expect to spend 26% more this year, or about $1,534," while "those who earn $200,000 or more expect their holiday spending to increase 22% to $3,922." Meanwhile, those "with yearly household income between $100,000 and $199,999 only plan to spend about 2% more this year, or $2,167, as college debt loads — coupled with a lack of real wage growth — makes this demographic less optimistic about holiday spending," Bloomberg reported.

If you're among those feeling nervous about holiday expenditures, here are some tips to keep your budget in check amid the merriment.

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1. Set some limits

A crucial part of keeping your holiday spending on track is to go in with a plan. You can figure out how much you can realistically spend on the holidays by determining your "business-as-usual expenses" and taking into consideration how much you spent last holiday season, advised Capital One.

After figuring out how much you can spend, determine where that money will go, which will help you "avoid the budget creep that comes from wandering aisles or retail sites," per CNBC Select. "Make a list of your anticipated expenses and assign a dollar amount to each. If you're able, get granular with your list, including what gifts you plan to buy and for whom," Mary Droesch, head of consumer and small business products at Bank of America, told CNBC Select.

2. Look for ways to adjust other spending

If after reviewing your budget numbers, you're worried things are going to feel a little too tight, you might consider cutting back in other areas to divert that money towards the holidays. According to Fortune, some easy ways to trim your spending include skipping food delivery and reviewing your monthly subscriptions to cancel any that you don't use or have forgotten about.

Beyond just cutting back, you might also consider increasing the amount of money you're working with. Particularly if "it feels like you only earn enough to cover the essentials, look for opportunities to earn extra income to help fund your holiday savings account," such as by "picking up a side hustle in your free time or using this as an opportunity to clear out clutter in your home and resell," suggested Fortune.

3. Shop smart

Since at least some shopping is likely inevitable during the holidays, it's important to be smart about it. While you may prefer to visit stores in person, according to Capital One, shopping online can help you shop smarter, as you can easily check "a variety of websites for the best deal" and "apply coupon codes when making an online purchase to help reduce the price of an item." Another tip from Capital One: Consider using a cash-back credit card to cover your purchases, as "that could mean more money back in your pocket while you’re trying to complete your holiday shopping."

On the flip side, it's important not to let the plethora of holiday season sales tempt you to spend. Look out for tactics stores can use to get you to spend more, such as "adding stuff to your online shopping cart just to reach free shipping" or sales where only a handful of items are actually on deep discount, warned GoBankingRates.

4. Get creative when it comes to gifts

When it comes to gifts, it's the thought that counts — not the price tag. As Investopedia pointed out, "a small, thoughtful gift is worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use." You might not even need to spend anything and instead give the "gift of your time," which could be offering up "a 'free night of babysitting' card for family and friends with young children, or 'good for a home-cooked meal' certificate for your widowed uncle that can be used when the time is right," suggested Investopedia.

Even if someone is able to give more than you can, "if you are in a different place in your financial life, don't feel you have to follow suit," advised Investopedia. And maybe if you start saving up well in advance of the holidays next year, you'll end up in a different spot financially.

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