Keep Your Spending Under Budget this Holiday Season

As a newlywed, I couldn’t wait to reach the milestones of our first holiday season as husband and wife—picking out our first Christmas tree, making our place a winter wonderland and spending night after cozy night sitting by the fire.

But after several years of dating, I was feeling tapped out when it came to holiday gift ideas for my husband. And to top it off, the number of people I needed to buy for doubled with my in-laws added to the mix. Since I love holiday shopping, I was worried about going overboard with twice the gifts on my “to-buy” list. Yet by putting a few simple rules in place, I managed to stay in control and under budget that first holiday season. Here are some ways I kept things practical:

Think outside the box (store)

To avoid long retail lines—and ballooning debt—I stuck to homemade gifts whenever I could. I knew my husband’s mothers and sisters loved to spend time in the kitchen, so I decided to roll with a cooking theme for their presents. I bought some high-quality photo albums they could use to store recipe cards, personalized the covers and wrapped up each one with a set of decorative measuring spoons. Making the recipe books was a fun art project for me, and the women in his family absolutely loved them!

When it came to my father-in-law, however, things were a little tougher. After playing 20 questions with my husband, I learned that one of his dad’s favorite activities is relaxing on the couch with a good book. So I put together a little package of reading essentials for him to enjoy. I shopped around online for some great deals on non-fiction books and added a nice leather bookmark, along with a small bag of his favorite coffee.

Set a price limit

Unfortunately, not every gift I planned to get was something I could make at home. So, to keep my spending on track, I set a price limit of $60 for each present I purchased. I found that creating this cost ceiling was a great way to enjoy the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping without letting myself go too crazy. Using a popular group deal site, I was able to get my husband a gift certificate to a downtown restaurant he’d wanted to try for ages—and still had enough money to make him a framed copy of our wedding vows.

Simplify shopping with a name drawing

Since my siblings and I were all getting older (and many of us had big expenses around the corner), my mom suggested that we have a name drawing to cut down on the number of gifts we’d buy for the coming holiday. We decided that each of us would draw one family member’s name, putting us in charge of only one gift apiece.

With a combination of coupons and extensive comparison shopping, I was able to get my sister the cozy pair of winter boots she’d had her eye on. She couldn’t have been more thrilled. In fact, the name drawing was such a success that we’ve kept it going in the couple of years since!

There are so many things to look forward to during the holidays—and feeling overwhelmed by a pricey list of presents isn’t one of them. By focusing on thoughtful gifts that stay within your budget, you can have a happy, healthy holiday that doesn’t break the bank.