10 Savvy Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Gift Budget

There's so much to look forward to during the holiday season: festivities, traditions, gifts. . . It's a magical time of year that can easily break your budget if you're not careful, especially when it comes to gift-giving.

Whether you're planning on giving gifts at a family gathering, holiday office party, or school activity, the costs add up quickly. We've put together a list of 10 savvy ways to spread the holiday spirit on a tight budget!

1. Create a holiday gift-giving budget

Before heading out on that first seasonal shopping spree, sit down and create a holiday budget. Review your spending over the last several months and any extra money you have in savings to calculate how much discretionary income you can afford to put toward gifts this year.

If necessary, get together with family and friends to discuss setting gift-giving limits.

2. Organize a holiday gift list

Identify the people you will be buying gifts for and make a gift list. Does your family expect you to buy gifts for everyone or just the kids?

What about other people in your life — neighbors, the mail carrier, your kids' teachers? Your gift-buying list can get out of hand if you let it, so if you're financially overwhelmed, only buy gifts for those closest to you and give out holiday cards to everyone else.

3. Tap into your creative side

There's nothing like receiving handmade gifts from the heart. Making homemade candles, soaps, or crafts can be a great way to save money. And everyone loves holiday cookies, cakes, and pastries this time of year!

Other talents you might draw on to create meaningful gifts include painting, drawing, sculpting, and photography. Giving from your heart creates a unique gift that can't be duplicated and will be cherished forever.

4. Give the gift of experience

Instead of gifting material items your recipients may not even need, consider giving gifts of experiences. Movie tickets, amusement park passes, or lessons for music, art, or sports can last for months to come. You can also give the gift of your company. Take your best friend to brunch or your significant other to an event. They'll be more thrilled to create memories with you.

5. Create new holiday traditions

In lieu of gifts, your extended family might consider going sledding or tobogganing and enjoying hot cocoa afterwards. Creating new traditions instead of buying presents for everyone can help keep everyone's holiday spending budget in check.

Alternatively, you might suggest exchanging Secret Santa or White Elephant gifts, meaning you only need to buy one item for your family gathering. Just be sure to set a spending limit everyone can afford.

6. Hand out holiday gift cards

Gift cards can be an inexpensive easy way to make any recipient overjoyed. Everyone can use and appreciate a gift card for groceries or gas. And you probably know someone who would love an excuse to go to their favorite craft store, bookstore, coffee shop, or restaurant.

Plus, with gift cards, there's no gift-wrapping involved! Simply include it in your recipient's holiday card and you're good to go.

7. Become a bargain hunter

Just because you're on a tight budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste, quality, or style when it comes to finding the perfect gift. You may need to look for affordable gifts on sale, at the thrift store, or on the clearance rack, but you can find a thoughtful gift at any price point.

Above all, don't wait until Black Friday to start shopping. Always be on the lookout for potential gifts and take advantage of sales throughout the year. Consignment shops, boutiques, estate sales, and yard sales are great places to spot unique items, such as household goods, books, knickknacks, and gently used apparel and toys.

8. Donate on your loved one's behalf

Does your recipient value social justice? Do they do a lot of work in their local community? Then they might appreciate you making a donation to their favorite charity in their name. Not only is the organization receiving a monetary gift, but you're also letting your loved one know that you recognize a cause that's close to their heart.

9. Request acts of kindness

When friends or family ask what you would like to receive for the holidays, ask them to pass on acts of kindness. For example, you might ask them to donate books to a local library, clothing to a family in need, or canned goods to the local food bank. Doing so can help them keep their own holiday expenses in check, which is a gift in and of itself.

10. Use your special talents and skills to help others

Do you have an exceptional talent or skill? Give out “coupons” that utilize these skills and can benefit your loved ones.

For instance, if you're great with children, offer babysitting coupons so the parents can have a night out on the town. If you're handy around the house, give the gift of yardwork or home maintenance. If you're the family member known for a special talent like crocheting, make coupons for crochet lessons. Whatever your skills, your knowledge may be the perfect gift to the right recipient.

Let Advance America help with unexpected holiday expenses

Remember, holiday gift-giving isn't about going broke to give others material goods. It's about creating memories, being thoughtful, and demonstrating to loved ones just how much they mean to you.

If you're struggling to make ends meet this season despite sticking to a holiday budget, Advance America can help. Visit us online or in-store to apply for a financial solution that meets your family's needs.

About the Author

Jennifer McKnight is the Senior Content Writer at Advance America. Drawing on her past financial struggles, she’s driven to create relatable content that empowers readers on their journey to financial stability.

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