Holiday Budgets: Bright & Merry or Tight & Scary?

Year-end celebrations with family and friends, great food, and receiving gifts can make the holiday season the most wonderful time of year. However, the added costs of travel, preparations, and gift-giving, along with the current state of inflation, can leave many of us feeling more...

angry scrooge

instead of...

Scrooge dancing happily with the Ghost of Christmas Present

The good news is that there are many ways to lighten the load the holidays have on wallets, and we’d like to share them!

Here are 10 Tips to keep your financial tinsel from tangling this holiday season:

1. Set a budget

Budgeting is a sound strategy year-round to achieve financial prosperity. Among many other perks, budgets help control spending, track expenses, and, ultimately, save money.

Creating your holiday budget should start with considering how much you spent last year and deciding if that is an amount you are comfortable spending this year.

This is also a great time to decide HOW you would like to celebrate this year. Small celebrations vs. big, traveling abroad vs. being home, and hosting vs. attending parties are great questions to ask yourself when starting to craft your holiday budget.

2. Make a list (check it twice)

Take a page from The Big Guy’s playbook and use a list for gift-giving! Use your naughty-or-nice list to decide who is a “must-get” and a “maybe just a card” this year. This list is also a great place to add your gift ideas too.

Quick tip: Check your list twice (or more)! You don’t want to forget about anyone.

3. Set a limit

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to shower the ones we love with gift upon gift upon gift. We love doing it! Holiday sales and discounts (see tip #5) make it almost impossible to pass up getting “just one more.” “Just one more” can add up fast.

Stick to a set number of gifts and a dollar limit per person.

4. Start early

The last thing you want on Christmas Eve is to be looking for something, anything that can pass as a thoughtful gift for that one person you forgot about (see tip #2). Starting your holiday shopping earlier rather than later can keep costs down, you’ll have more options, and you’ll be proud of the gift you’re giving!

Quick tip: Treat holiday merchandise popping up on shelves as your green light to start shopping.

5. Shop around

With store inventories remaining high, many major retailers are offering holiday sales and discounts earlier than ever. It’s also important to remember that your favorite store may not have the best price. That’s why it’s essential to shop around. Holiday ads are designed to make discounts look more attractive than they are. If you find a gift you’d like to give, double-check that you’re getting the best deal by comparing prices from other stores and online.

Quick tip: Beware of ultra-deep Black Friday discounts. You may be buying a lower-quality product.

6. Coupons

Do not underestimate the power of the coupon. From digital coupons and coupon apps to the Sunday paper, coupons can and should be your friend during the holidays. Stacking coupons can lessen that big family-dinner grocery bill. Sign up for the newsletter of your favorite stores and brands to get exclusive deals and offers. has some helpful tips on taking advantage of couponing during the holidays.

7. Hack your spending habits with cash

A concept in behavioral economics called “pain of paying” states that spending money is painful to us. It’s also the core reason paying in cash is so compelling for honing spending and saving money.

When paying with cash, we immediately feel the tangible parting of ourselves from our money, making us more aware of how much we are spending – something not necessarily felt when we slide/insert/tap credit cards. Being more aware of the money you are spending can help keep overall spending in check.

It’s also important to recognize that we are becoming an increasingly cashless society. If you decide to use a credit card for your purchases, stick with a convenient, easily accessible, safe & secure card that offers rewards. (See tip #9).

8. Homemade / DIY gifting

Never underestimate the power (and value) of a handmade gift. Personalized and heartfelt. Who can put a price tag on that?! Ideas can range from food items (baked goods, handmade candy, etc.), anything-in-a-jar, to using your skills (knitting, woodworking, candle making). When it comes to homemade gifting, you are your limit.

9. No self-gifting... for now

This could be the most difficult tip to follow on this list. You’re getting everyone else a gift… why not get yourself something too? We’re all guilty of that line of thinking. It’s important to remember the WHY of your holiday shopping – for others. Remembering this can help keep unnecessary personal purchases at bay.

Don’t worry – it’s not all self-restraint all the time. Utilize the points, cashback, and rewards from your purchases to treat yourself AFTER the holidays. Take advantage of those post-holiday sales!

Quick tip: Electronics, winter clothes, toys, and holiday decorations are often discounted to clear leftover holiday inventory.

9. Seriously... don't stress

It’s quite the statistic: over 60% of Americans experience more stress during the holidays citing finances as the most significant stressor. That’s not right to us at Prospera. Remember, this time of year is meant to be enjoyed and enjoyed with the ones you love. If “the most wonderful time of year” is actually the scariest, we can help. We’re all about helping you get to financial prosperity no matter the season. Stop into a branch or contact us to see how we can help.

We hope these tips help take your holiday budgeting from tight & scary to bright & merry! If you are ready to tackle the season – enjoy this Holiday Budget Planner to help you get started!

Start Saving for Next Year

Our Holiday Club Savings allows you to put a small dollar amount away each pay period, or once a month so that when the holidays come around next year, that small amount has turned into enough to make your spirits merry!

Loyalty Loan is Back!

Our Loyalty Loan can help you pay a bill, pay for holiday expenses, fix your car, and more! All credit approved*. Hurry, this offer ends December 31, 2023!

*Credit reports will be run for verification and status update purposes only. Members must be in good standing with the credit union (current on any outstanding loan, checking account is not currently negative), was not 30+ days delinquent on previous loyalty loan and have no delinquent or charged-off accounts. Approval is not based on creditworthiness or credit score.