Four Ways to Curb Holiday Spending

October 17, 2022 by Chevron Federal Credit Union

It’s official: Halloween decorations have hit the shelves and the holiday spending season has arrived. Every year, it seems like buying those jumbo-sized bags of miniature candy bars is the start of months of spending that doesn’t end until the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

And it might be getting worse. In 2021, nationwide holiday retail sales hit $886.7 billion — a 14.1% increase over 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. (Those numbers exclude car dealerships, gas stations and restaurants.)

Factor in the rising cost of inflation, and the holiday season may be feeling more stressful than usual this year. But you can take steps now to bring back the joy and keep your budget in check.

Plan ahead

To keep unexpected expenses from blowing your budget, start by mapping out all of your holiday plans now. Planning out what you’ll need for each holiday — including decorations, travel costs, food and gifts — can help you divide up your budget so that everything is covered.

Plus, by planning ahead, you’ll have more time to compare prices and get better deals. For example, a study by CheapAir.com found buying a plane ticket 76 days before your travel date may net you the best deal. If you plan to order catering or pre-cooked holiday meals, you’ll also get a better deal by reserving in advance.

There is one caveat to getting a jump on things, though: gift buying. With more time to shop, you may find more and more gifts to buy and end up overspending. To keep it in check, create a gift recipient list and stick to it.

Band together

We’re all feeling the pinch of rising prices this year, but we can cut some of the financial stress by working together to lower costs.

For example, instead of hosting your entire extended family for Thanksgiving, offer to make the turkey yourself and turn the rest of the day into a potluck where everyone in the family brings their favorite dish. You’ll save money and time.

If you’ve been dreaming of a destination holiday, consider traveling somewhere closer and carpool to skip the airline tickets. You might also save money by renting a house for the family to share rather than separate hotel rooms.

Even small moves can help stretch your budget. Carpool to company-sponsored holiday events to cut down on gas costs. Organize a Secret Santa gift exchange with your friends or host a BYOB New Year’s Eve event at home. With so many holidays in a row, trimming just a small amount from each event’s budget will add up.

Shop sales smarter

Holiday sales can be a great way to save some cash, but all those limited-time deals are also a great motivator to spend more than you intended.

Marketers use a lot of incentives to drive up retail sales during the holidays. On Black Friday, for example, many advertised deals are doorbusters or limited-time events, and there is a reason for that. Psychologists call it the scarcity principle, essentially that means the more limited or rare we think something is, the more we think we need to buy it now.

You don’t have to give up bargain hunting entirely to avoid sales traps. Instead, add a quantity and dollar amount for everyone on your gift list and then commit to keeping buying in check.


One of the biggest advantages of planning your holiday spending early is timing. Not only do you have more time to shop sales or convince your family to opt for Secret Santa this year, you’ll also have more time to bust out your DIY skills.

Many people avoid homemade gifts and decorations because they think they’re not crafty enough to pull off something meaningful, but you don’t have to be Martha Stewart to show someone you care. If you’re baker, handcraft challahs at home to bring to friends and family at the start of Hannukah. Take a free course online to learn some basic knitting skills and knit scarves for holiday gifts. You can even get the kids involved by having them help you make simple holiday decorations to add festive cheer to your home on a dime.

Your friends and family will love anything you make simply because it came from you, not a store. And you’ll have fun getting into the holidays without having to wake up early to shop online Cyber Monday sales or standing in checkout lines for hours.

Keeping your budget merry and bright

Want some more tips on creating an enjoyable and affordable holiday? Check out the upcoming webinar, “Breezing Through the Holidays,” for even more tips

To help you save even more this holiday season, your credit union credit card comes with perks. As a member, you’ll earn cash back or points on everyday purchases to extend your savings this holiday season — and beyond.

Need some help putting a budget together or managing debt from holiday expenses? The Balance’s budget counselors can help you review your finances and develop a tailored spending plan


From everyday finance to life’s big money moments, it’s better when you belong.