Beautifully wrapped holiday present in brown paper

15 Holiday Budgeting Tips

Updated November 3, 2020 . AmFam Team

Looking for ways to save on holiday spending? Discover our 15 tips on how to budget for the holidays so you can focus on friends & family rather than expenses.

The holiday season is a time for creating cherished memories with loved ones. But sometimes it can feel like a Black Friday mad dash to check out — and the result? A major drain on your holiday budget. Managing your holiday savings is the key to keeping holiday shopping fun. To help you keep your focus on fun, we've come up with 15 budget-friendly shopping tips to help you save money during the holidays.

1. Make a holiday budget

It may seem impossible, but you can budget holidays with a little planning — and it doesn’t have to be hard. Before you start shopping, it’s important to decide how much money you can spend and set expectations accordingly. That way you, and hopefully whomever is receiving your gifts, won’t be disappointed.

Holiday budgeting is one step toward controlling the desire to spend this season. The second step is sticking to the budget. Give yourself a little flexibility, so it’s still fun, but keep your limits in mind.

2. Plan and research Black Friday deals

Black Friday is typically when you can find the best shopping deals of the year. It’s a great time to stay within your holiday budget and cross names off your shopping list. To best leverage Black Friday deals while shopping on a budget, create a plan beforehand.

Most retailers release Black Friday ads well in advance of Black Friday. Use these ads to compare prices and determine where you can find the best deal. Also be sure to have lists for everyone you need to shop for in advance too.

3. Coordinate with others

If you’re able to recruit a family member, divide and conquer together. That way you’ll have a better chance at scoring online deals as soon as they go live. Having someone to help can also ensure you don’t go over your holiday budget and can check in on deals.

4. Don’t get carried away

It’s really easy to end up buying more than you anticipated, especially on Black Friday because of all the great deals. Resist the temptation, and only buy what you need for holiday gifts. There will be plenty of opportunities later to find great online deals for things you may not need.

5. Leverage Cyber Monday

Miss out on Black Friday deals? There’s always Cyber Monday. This is the Monday that follows Black Friday, and it’s all about online deals on sites like Amazon. It’s a great time to wrap up your holiday shopping or score some deals you may have missed on Black Friday.

6. Avoid credit cards

Swiping your plastic and forgetting about it is even easier than it sounds. And although it’s never a good idea to spend money you don’t have, it’s especially important to follow that rule around the holidays. Gift-giving costs add up fast and relying on your credit cards could put you in a sticky situation come January.

7. Skip regular entertainment expenses

Instead of your regular entertainment, consider choosing less expensive activities to help you save money for the holidays. Make this a time to stay in and try new recipes while watching classic films on TV.

8. Choose a thoughtful gift

An expensive gift is nice, but one that comes from the heart and “speaks” to the recipient is truly cherished. Resist the urge to buy last minute big items. Instead, shop ahead of time with intention.

9. Give a handmade present

Put your individual skills and talents to use and make as much as you can this season. From holiday decorations and gifts to delicious treats. Let your star shine bright and show others what you can do. Check out these DIY craft projects for inspiration.

10. Try a gift-giving game

If you have a large group, skip buying individual presents for everyone and try a present game like White Elephant or Secret Santa. Set a reasonable amount for everyone to spend and then pick a holiday game to play. Who knows, you may just create a new holiday tradition while saving big!

Want to learn more ways to save? Check out our easy tips to keep your budget on track.

11. Add your name to your shopping list

Too often we go shopping for others and wind up with goodies for ourselves. By putting your own name on the list, you are giving yourself a well-deserved present and resisting the urge to impulse buy.

12. Use coupons

When shopping online — always search for coupon codes. There are discounts everywhere during the holidays, but planning a shopping trip based around coupons takes a little effort. If you’re willing to invest the time, your wallet will reap the rewards.

13. Ask for a discount

Whether you’re shopping online or in a store— ask if there’s a discount or coupon. You’ll find that the checkers in stores frequently hold coupon codes at their station but don’t use them unless you ask. When buying online, use the chat feature to ask if they can give you a discount.

14. Try weekly ad and coupon apps

Research apps to find one that helps you find deals at the stores and online. Many of these apps can help you find online coupons right away. A few apps you may want to start checking out are: Flipp, Shopular, and ShopSavvy.

15. Go back and get the sale price

Many of the bigger retailers will honor sale prices if you bought the item at full price within a certain number of days from your purchase. Keep your receipts and watch for deals.

As an added tip, shop this year’s sales for next year. It never hurts to take advantage of those deep discounts that the stores offer immediately after the holidays. Not only will you save money, but you’ll relieve some of next year’s shopping stress. And that makes the holidays just a little more joyful!

Bundle and Save with American Family Insurance

Your financial well-being matters. Discover how American Family Insurance can help you take control of your finances and budgeting. Find tips on how to maximize your savings in our Money Matters resources section.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

Related Articles

  • Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Family of four walking hand in hand down beach
    Ways to Save Money for a Family Trip

    Among the many joys of being a parent is the opportunity to share your passions with your children. From exploring your favorite hobbies to diving into cherished family recipes, as your kids grow so do the memories you create together.

    Going on vacation with your children is a great way to bond with them, but it can get costly. The good news is that getting out of town doesn’t have to break the bank. Plan for your next family adventure by exploring the tips in these family vacation FAQs.

  • Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Man using entering his credit card info into his cellphone.
    Credit and Identity Theft Monitoring

    Protecting your home with a security system and locking your doors when you leave for the day are measures you might take to protect your home from intruders. Credit and identity theft monitoring are a type of “security system” that protects you from intruders gaining access to your personal information. From credit fraud to identity theft, everyone is susceptible to these types of breaches — that’s why it’s so important to defend yourself against them.

    Credit monitoring and identity theft protection are two different ways to proactively protect yourself if your personal information gets into the wrong hands. Let’s take a look at the differences and why it’s important to implement them both together.

  • Couple looking at housing prices
    Couple looking at housing prices
    Saving for a House

    There are a few defining moments in our lives. For some, it’s the realization that buying that first home is within reach, both financially and emotionally. It’s a big step, and it’s one that’s built into the American dream. And if you’re left wondering how much money you should save before buying a house, you’re not alone. These costs can add up quickly.

    After you’ve made the big decision to start shopping for a home, you might be surprised to find that coming up with the cash down payment is only one of several financial hurdles you’ll need to clear. Exactly how much you should save for a house depends on a number of factors, like the value of the home you’re targeting and the amount of money you intend on pushing into your down payment.

  • A white woman budgets for saving money using a calculator at a cafe.
    A white redheaded woman works on her budget for saving money with a calculator at a cafe.
    Pay Off Student Loans or Buy a House?

    After college, life moves fast. You get your first big job, move out of your parents’ house and start a whole new life on your own. For most people, this also means paying off student loan debt from your college tuition. Having this debt may make big milestones like buying a house seem far off, but there are ways to make the leap from renter to homeowner even if you have student loans. So can you get a mortgage while also paying off student debt? Or should you wait to pay it off before you buy a house?

    Every situation is different, so it’s important to do the right research and choose the best option for you. Luckily, we’ve done some of the breakdown for you to help you decide whether to pay off your student loan entirely or buy a house.

    Can Student Loans Affect Buying a House?

    Typically, student loan debt doesn’t prevent you from getting a mortgage. The biggest thing to note is that student loan debt does influence your debt-to-income ratio, which is a factor lenders consider before giving you a loan. It can also affect the interest rate you pay on your mortgage.

    Buying a house with defaulted student loans

    If you’ve defaulted on your student loans, it’ll be more difficult — but not impossible — for you to get a mortgage. Because defaulting negatively affects your credit score, lenders will be less likely to want to give you a loan or will charge a much higher interest rate on a loan.

    Getting a home loan with student loan deferment

    If you’ve deferred your student loans, this usually won’t affect your chances of getting a mortgage. Just be sure to consider how the future estimated payments will factor your debt-to-income ratio. Some types of mortgages may reject applicants with deferred loans, so do your research on the different types of mortgages before shopping.

    Should You Pay Off Student Loans Before Buying a House?

    Buying a house is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. It can seem smart to hold off on house shopping while you still have student loan debt, and it can be even more difficult to save for a house if you’ve got a high debt-to-income ratio. But if you have enough income to handle the payments for both, you may want to consider investing in your first home.

    Signs You Should Pay Off Student Loans

    When considering whether to pay student loans or save for a house, there are a few factors that can help you decide if paying off your student loans should be a priority.

    Your debt-to-income ratio is too high

    If the amount of money you bring in monthly or yearly is almost the same as the amount of money you pay out in debts — like student and car loans or credit cards — it may be best to pay down your debt before buying a house.

    You’ve defaulted on your loans

    Defaulting on your loans has a severe negative impact on your credit score, which tells lenders that you’re a bigger risk to take on. Work on improving your credit score before shopping for a mortgage.

    You’re struggling to make payments

    If you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to make payments on your loan every month, it’s best to hold off on saving for a house. Need help keeping track of your student loan payments? Try our student loan payment tracker to get organized.

    You haven’t saved for a down payment or emergency fund

    Before you start picking out which houses you want to tour, you should take a look at your savings. If you don’t have enough for a 5 to 10 percent down payment or enough as an emergency fund for home expenses — like a broken dishwasher or damaged roof — take more time to put money away for your first home.