Five Tips for Smart Ho-Ho-Holiday Spending

Way back in another time, an orange was considered an enviable, even somewhat extravagant Christmas present. The tradition of gifting oranges dates back to the Great Depression—so perhaps not quite “the good old days”—but it truly was considered a treat to receive one. Families had little, if anything. Citrus was hard to come by in northern climates, and an orange was a sweet, juicy treat from an exotic, warm, faraway land called Florida. Try to give a kid an orange for Christmas today and you’ll likely get a bewildered expression in return, at best.

These days we go from Black Friday straight to Cyber Monday, which strangely seems to last Tuesday through Sunday as well. While giving truly can be just as joyful as receiving, it’s always wise to have a game plan this time of year, so you don’t end up with the post-Christmas-bill blues. Here are some tips to help you avoid overspending.

  1. Set a budget, and stick to it. It may sound obvious, but simply looking at your bank accounts and determining what you can afford to spend ahead of time will help ensure you have a jollier January.
  2. Consider other holiday spending, and bonuses. Will you have travel expenses, groceries for entertaining, decor? Factor all of these things when you set your budget. Quite certain you have a Christmas bonus coming your way? If it’s a safe bet, factor that in too.
  3. Avoid impulse buying. Stores start earlier and earlier to draw you in with over-the-top, technicolor displays and unpassupable holiday deals. Don’t get taken for a sleigh ride. Plan ahead, find out what people really want, focus on one or two things, and avoid the impulse buys and check-out aisle tchotchkes.
  4. Consider who you’re shopping for, and if you should be. Of course we’d love to buy gifts for everyone, but does great Aunt Edna’s new gentleman friend really need something to unwrap? He’s probably just thrilled to be invited, and for second helpings of roast beef. The same generally applies to newborns and family pets. (Well, maybe give the dog some roast beef, better not the baby.)
  5. Keep it simple. Kids don’t really need twenty presents to unwrap. Store credit cards may seem like a good idea, but they often have high interest rates, and can make it easier to overspend. Just use your common sense, and hold onto your dollars and cents.