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To help take the stress out of the holiday season, consider creating and sticking to a holiday budget.

Rein in your holiday spending

Monday, December 13, 2021

Media Contact: Kirsten Hollansworth | Communications Graduate Student | 405-744-0442 |

‘Tis the season of giving, which often becomes the season of spending, too. Are you prepared with a plan for budgeting your finances this holiday season?

Rodney Holcomb, agribusiness economist, said Oklahoma's economy remains solid, but the state is still impacted by the same inflation issues that impact the rest of the country.

“Experienced holiday gift givers and professional gamblers have one thing in common: they set a spending limit and don't go beyond it,” Holcomb said. “For budgeting purposes, build in an overage for any items that may experience a price increase. That way you won't run short when trying to follow your budget.”

To ease your stress this season when it can be easy to go overboard on holiday shopping, learn how to start budgeting to avoid overspending. Specialists with the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center recommend the following tips.

Begin with a list of holiday expenses

Creating a list of expected holiday expenses is the first step to creating a plan. To get a basic idea of upcoming expenses, consider gifts for friends and family, gift wrapping, holiday food, decorations, celebrations and travel expenses.

This list will serve as a foundation for a shopping list. What stores will have the best deals? For each person you plan to shop for, have a few gift ideas within the designated budget.

The earlier you start, the greater chance you have of finding pre-holiday sales. This will allow you to find the sales ahead of time and help optimize your finances. 

Decide on your spending limit

To determine how much you have available for holiday expenses, look at your budget. When possible, consult last year's budget to see how much you spent in preparation for seasonal festivities. Set a dollar amount that you are willing to spend this year and stick to it.

To avoid overspending, speak with friends and family to establish a predetermined budget. A price limit can help you stay on track, especially during gift exchanges. To reduce the financial burden with a large group of people, a gift exchange can be a new tradition where each person buys a gift for one other person.

Keep traditions that you can afford, but don’t be afraid to modify old traditions to make them budget friendly. Since putting gifts on a credit card makes it easy to overspend, consider following a cash-only system.

One of the best ways to save money and time is to do most of your shopping online. This will help you find the best deals when comparing prices. Take advantage of promotional codes and opportunities for free shipping. Remember, it’s important to plan to allow plenty of time for your gifts to arrive.

Assign money to each category

Now that you know your spending limit, divide your budget for all holiday expenses. If you know how much you must spend on each gift, this will help narrow down ideas and save you time while you shop.

Remember, you don’t have to spend all your savings to show those closest to you how much you care. While recipients will appreciate materialistic items, gifting experiences can be fulfilling. What’s better than spending quality time together during the holiday season?

If you’re creative and have a knack for making something unique, homemade holiday presents are a great way to show how much you care about someone while saving money. One of the most inexpensive and delicious gifts is homemade baked goods to spread the holiday cheer.

Track your purchases

As you start spending, subtract the price of gifts purchased from your holiday season budget total. Tracking your spending will help you adjust the budget and is key to sticking to your budget.

Timing your holiday supply purchases around the after-Christmas sales is one of the easiest ways to save. This will allow you to get a head start on next year’s to-do list and you’ll save big right after this year’s holiday.

If you keep track of holiday-related expenses, this will help you to more accurately budget for next year.

“Gift giving can be the most expensive aspect of the holiday season,” Holcomb said. “Plan ahead, set a spending limit and don't wait until the last minute to do your shopping. Last-minute shoppers often end up substituting higher priced gifts for the ones they can no longer find in late December.”

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

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