Money Tips: How to Plan Your Holiday Gift Budget


Every year I try to plan a budget and then stick to my plan for holiday giving. My pattern, it seems, is that I get caught up in the moment and think, “Ok, just one more gift, one more box of holiday cards, and one more bargain.” How do I stick to my plan this year? Want to think out of the holiday gift box? Let’s try and think smarter, organize, and stay within the budget.

Here are six tips for planning and managing your spending this season:

Make a plan, and be realistic. Today is not the day to plan your entire 2018 budget, but it is a good time to look at what you can spend on 2017 holiday gifts.

Create your gift list for everyone you are thinking of buying for this year. It’s best to include EVERYONE, because it’s easier to take people off that list—plus, writing a list can jog your memory of everyone you want to give to.

  • Start with family members (and don’t leave anyone off)  
  • Close Friends
  • Office Exchange

Now that you have created your list, prioritize.

  • Family: kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, godchildren, sisters, brothers, mother, father, grandparents. Is there anyone else in the family you like to give gifts to? Add them.
  • Friends—do you have an agreement with your friends? Do you have a budget or type of gift? I have two best girlfriends; my friend Sofia has a large family and barely any budget, so we gift each other time. You can pencil in time to hike on set days of the coming months. Second, Victoria is crafty and loves to make candles, flower arrangements, and handwritten note cards. I usually get her things like bath scrub that I have made ($5) or little succulents ($6) that I have propagated over the year.
  • Office Exchange—hopefully you only have one gift exchange to participate in this year. DIY gifts or homemade cookies are always fun. Style up the package with recycled ribbon or craft paper. 

Congratulations, you have prioritized your list! Now you can start thinking about your budget and gifts.

Now decide if you want to give the people on your list things that would help in their day to day lives, or fun things that you know they would want but might not be willing to buy for themselves.

Be Creative: Quality over Quantity

  • DIY projects are a great way to save money while still giving quality. People love a homemade gift prepared just for them. I love getting homemade bath salts and bombs that have recipes, or creating a recipe jar and inserting ingredients from your favorite family desserts see our Pinterest board.

If you aren’t feeling crafty and want to stretch the gift over 3-6 months, try gifting a subscription box. There are fun subscription boxes for everyone on your list.  

A few ideas for gifting without a budget.

  • If you would rather not spend the money on a fancy pack of holiday cards this year, consider writing thoughtful letters to your usual card recipients instead. Another, less time-consuming option is to find a great poem, or quote, and copy it out for each person. Family and friends aren’t going to judge you for not sending them a glittery red card—people understand budget constraints. Moments in time spent with our loved ones are the experiences we remember the most, and writing a personal letter is one way of offering that time.

If you have kept old, used holiday cards, you can get creative and recycle your old cards.

Even if your gift giving budget didn’t go as far this year as it has in the past, you can still give meaningful gifts to the people who matter in your life. Get creative, plan ahead, and keep it light remember, the holidays are supposed to be fun!

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