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Expert tips for the ultimate holiday budget

Financial experts give their actionable advice on budgeting for the holidays.

Tis the season to give and save. The holiday season can be both joyous and stressful. But due to a tumultuous year, the stress might be higher than usual. One fifth of American adults plan to spend an average of $318 less for gifts, travel, food and the like this Christmas.

Finder is here to help relieve some of the financial stress this holiday season with a curated list of holiday budget tips from various financial experts. When we asked financial experts if they would suggest re-gifting to save money during the holidays 71% said yes while approximately 29% said no. The common reason for no was that “it was in bad taste.”

page image stating if finance experts suggest re-gifting to save money

Set money aside each month

Set aside money each month into a holiday gift fund. The way I do this is by figuring out everyone I will need to buy gifts for that year, then figuring out an estimate of how much I should expect to spend on each person.

Once I figure that out and how much money I will roughly need to have to spend on gifts for the holidays, I set aside money each paycheck so that when the holidays roll around, I’m not blindsided by these expenses. If you estimate your holiday gift spending will be $500 in December every year, it’s much easier to put away about $42 a month rather than have to fork over $500 at one time.

– Austin Weyenberg, Founder, The Logic of Money

Regift your best items

Fewer gatherings and gift exchanges mean less spent on gifts, food and travel. When a gathering does take place and a gift exchange normally occurs, discuss the option of not giving gifts or doing a white elephant gift exchange with things you have in your home that you’re ready to part with. This can be a fun experience when people bring their ‘best junk’ from their house.

– Kristy L. Archuleta, Ph.D., LMFT, CFT-I™ Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics | Professor, University of Georgia

Start shopping early

Definitely start stopping for holiday gifts at least two to three months in advance. That will give you plenty of time to plan ahead and shop around for the best prices.

On a similar note, I recommend people start saving for their holiday sinking fund four to six months in advance to avoid a strain on their budget during the holiday season.

– Charlotte Darr, Money Coach, Save Live Thrive LLC

Track for deals throughout the year

Update a shopping list throughout the year. Record things you think your loved ones would enjoy and keep an eye out for deals on the items. This way your holiday shopping will be stress free and easy.

– Kseniya Korneva, Founder, The Money Minimalists


Try to make DIY gifts. You will be saving a lot by doing something DIY and it’s the thought that counts. Remind yourself of your other financial obligations if you choose to go shopping. Doing so could prevent you from buying expensive gifts that might affect your budget for your more important obligations.

– Rishi Chawla, Partner at Premier Brains

Save on your holiday meal

Consider that all the food you buy usually isn’t eaten. Instead of buying one of everything, try hitting just a few favorites. If you’re buying turkey by the pound, consider if you need that big of a bird? If you want different pies, consider if you could get the sampler single pie instead? Anything to cut back on will make a big difference.

– Shaun Morgan, Personal Finance Blogger, Simply Know Money

Shop after the holidays for the next year

A number of businesses provide stock clearance sales for their surplus merchandise after every holiday season. Things are offered at extremely high discounts in these stock clearance sells. Keep your eyes open for stock clearance sales after the holidays and pick your things for the next year’s holiday at unexpected low prices.

– Andrei Vasilescu, CEO, DontPayFull

Use federal holiday sales

Maximize those retailer sales that happen during federally recognized holidays year-round. Think Labor Day weekend sales to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day specials. These are your best times to score savings on future presents rather than starting at some random month mark.

– Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President, altLINE

Christmas on a budget: Holiday savings for families

Parents with credit cards and children under the age of 18 were nearly twice as likely as non-parent cardholders to say yes to taking on more debt during the holidays, according to a survey by

So, what should your Christmas budget per child actually look like? There’s no right or wrong answer to this. It all comes down to your financial goals and budget.

That’s why it’s important to set a monthly budget for yourself and add a specific spend limit for “gifts.” Once you’ve established your total spend limit, create a list of all your gift recipients, including your kids. Then start dividing up how much you want to spend per person according to your total budgeting limit for gifts.

Tim Sheehan, CEO & Founder of Greenlight, states that you can use this opportunity to sit down with your kids and help them budget for holiday gifts as well.

He explains “The holidays are a perfect time to teach kids budgeting…. try to take advantage of the opportunity where you can sit down with your kids, and make a list of the people who they’re going to buy gifts for. They can plan how much money they have for all gift buying and…. figure out how much [they] can spend on each gift.”

For even more insights into holiday budgeting and keeping your cost down, watch this short video where Tim Sheehan shares even more insights for you and your family.

WATCH: 5 tips for holiday budgeting

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Lead Editor, Personal Finance

Alexa Serrano Cruz is Deputy Editor at Forbes Advisor and was the lead editor at Finder, specializing in banking. As a personal finance expert, she helps Americans make informed decisions about their finances. Her expertise includes savings, budgeting, kids' banking, and more. Prior to joining Finder, Alexa worked as an editor in Miami and New York. Alexa is a certified anti-money laundering specialist and her personal finance expertise has earned recognition from reputable publications such as Nasdaq, Best Company, U.S. News & World Report, MSN, Yahoo, and Valuewalk. Alexa has also made notable appearances on platforms such as Winnie Sun TV, money podcasts like LifeBlood, and broadcast news publications like Fox News and NBC News. Alexa also served as an editor for ACAMS Today, a prominent publication dedicated to anti-financial crime detection and counter-terrorist financing. See full bio

Alexa's expertise
Alexa has written 19 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Personal finance
  • Kids' banking
  • Budgeting and saving
  • Anti-financial crime

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