Tips And Tricks For Budgeting Your Holiday Shopping

Some of us find peace in strolling through store aisles, while others prefer to engage in retail therapy only when necessary. Whether you're a frugal minimalist or an ardent shopaholic, one must admit that there's something special about choosing gifts for the holidays. Still, one concern has got some shoppers feeling a bit bah humbug this season. "Inflation is, by far, the biggest issue for households this year," economist Tim Quinlan tells CNBC. It's no secret that prices have risen on virtually everything lately. Climbing costs are a constant source of stress for many shoppers, but they're especially troubling when it comes to gift-giving plans.


Unfortunately for some, not planning ahead may be costly. "I think there's going to be a lot of post-holiday debt hangovers. A lot of sticker shock in January, unfortunately," Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst at Bankrate, tells NPR.

Even though it seems inflation will be sticking around for the holidays, there's no reason for that to put a damper on your cheer. With a few helpful tips, you can stick to your budget this season and not incur debt to cover everyone on your gift list.

Start by making your list and checking it twice

Before you step foot in any stores, start drafting a list of gift recipients. The earlier you do this, the better. "Really put some thought into this because you're making a promise to yourself that this is it — you're not buying anything more for anyone else," Howard Dvorkin, chairman of, tells Nasdaq. Once you're aware of who's made the cut, you can be on the lookout for deals and opportunities that may arise unexpectedly.


Of course, hiccups are bound to occur along the way. For instance, you may write someone off only to find that they've gotten you something after all. We've all been there, and the feeling is mortifying, to say the least. Luckily, there are ways to ensure that it never happens again.

Plan ahead to avoid any decidedly unfestive gaffes. "I have a gift closet for regifting throughout the year, filled with items that are very nice, brand new, and may be very useful for someone else," etiquette expert Elaine Swann tells Real Simple. Opt for gifts that can be appreciated by virtually anyone, like cookware, winter gloves, or sculpted beeswax candles.

Remember homemade gifts are just as sweet as store-bought

It's true that many of us have been on the receiving end of a well-intentioned popsicle stick craft. But not all handcrafted presents have to scream Kindergarten art project. With a little effort, you can create something special without breaking the bank. "It could cost less than a traditional gift but end up meaning even more," financial planner Akeiva M. Ellis tells the Wall Street Journal.


When conceptualizing DIY projects, don't pick anything you wouldn't want to receive, or gifts that aren't fully assembled. For instance, a colorful plate of homemade cookies will get gobbled up before New Year's Day, but a mason jar of soup mix is less likely to excite the recipient. "The last [soup mix] I got is proudly sitting on my counter. Maybe someday I'll dust it off and cook it," one person on Reddit said.

If you'd prefer to give gifts that aren't food-based, consider bath and body goods. Using natural ingredients, you can make impressive, customizable products for everyone on your list. A flight of facial clays, for example, makes for easy DIY-ing and results in seriously spa-worthy masks. Grab some small jars, a fan brush, and clay powder, like the French Green Clay from Bulk Apothecary. Then, draw a label and personal message on a plain sticker and adhere it to the jar of clay. Pack the materials in a small cardboard box and decorate it using a paint marker to tie everything together.


Take advantage of retailers' woes

If you're going the store-bought route, you're in luck. Retailers are struggling to shift excess inventory, which means that strong-willed shoppers are poised to come out on top this season. In fact, the amount of overstock is so vast at some stores that experts are concerned it could be a turn-off for consumers. "A lot of people may walk into stores to look around, and they just might walk out again and think, 'I can't cope with this,'" GlobalData Retail director Neil Saunders told CNBC. That said, no one needs to know that their PJ set came from the clearance rack this year.


Another phenomenon you might've noticed is the number of sales popping up earlier than ever. "A few years ago, I started to say, with some accuracy, that Black Friday starts on Labor Day. But this season has kicked off sooner than ever," retail expert Mark Cohen tells The Boston Globe

To be straightforward, take advantage of major sales, but only if they apply to items on your list. Also, don't fret if any must-have items on your list sell out — considering the hype surrounding this year's holiday sales, there are bound to be more special savings. "We expect the [retail] marketplace to be more promotional through the end of the holiday season," Harmit Singh, CFO at Levi Strauss, told The New York Times.


Get creative with repurposed wares

Perhaps you're willing to do things a little differently this year. Buying secondhand is an excellent idea for sourcing inexpensive treasures for your loved ones. Keep in mind that you may not find exactly what you need at the local thrift store on your first trip. However, online markets like Depop and Poshmark can provide, say, the vintage Juicy Couture tracksuit your niece has been begging for. "Things are changing, especially among young people who try to be sustainable and want to be part of the circular economy," research analyst Sucharita Kodali tells the Los Angeles Times.


To save a little cash, you can purchase new or lightly used items from resale sites or local marketplaces. And if you're not sure recipients would be comfortable with pre-owned clothing or accessories, try and get creative with your gift-giving. For example, if you have a friend who loves houseplants, why not grab a piece of vintage pottery and create a unique planter for them? By combining something old and something new, you'll have a sustainable gift that's one-of-a-kind.

Plan a gift exchange for large groups

Trying to reign in spending when it comes to large groups is tough. If you dread the thought of trying to buy for every member of the family, propose a gift exchange instead. "I love the idea of coming up with a Pollyanna, Secret Santa, or white elephant among families, especially extended families," financial advisor Leah Ingram tells USA Today. During a Secret Santa swap, guests draw names from a hat to choose a random recipient, keeping their giftee's identity under wraps. The white elephant tradition is somewhat trickier. In this version, the festivities begin when guests bring a wrapped present and place it in a pile. After selecting a gift from the stack, guests can opt to keep theirs or steal someone else's. In either event, a budget is encouraged so that participants don't overspend.


Other ideas for cutting costs around the holiday season include a cookie exchange or potluck. This way, instead of one person bearing the brunt of the food bill, everyone can contribute — with tasty results. "There's nothing quite like pulling cookies out of the oven and sharing them with the people you love," snack enthusiast Sam Gellerstein tells The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Save money and the environment with sustainable wrapping

Wrapping paper is a necessary part of the gifting process, but roll after roll can quickly add up at the register. Instead of spending on pricey prints, choose alternative gift wrappings that are affordable and environmentally friendly. "Try Furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping technique," recycling expert Shaye DiPasquale tells "Old sheet music, maps, newspapers, or even scraps of fabric will give a cool vintage look to any package." Anything goes — you can even use functional pieces like bandanas or scarves to wrap smaller objects.


And when it comes to finishing touches, nothing beats homemade. With a calligraphy pen and a bit of cardstock, you can create beautiful gift tags and greeting cards at virtually no extra cost. What's more, you don't need to be a fine artist to produce extraordinary results. Try using a swirl or two of watercolor paint in festive colors for a simple, elegant motif that can be easily replicated. No matter which design you choose, your gifts are sure to be the star of the holiday party this year.