Two women shopping with many holiday purchases
Planning and budgeting help control holiday overspending and stress.

Angelica B. Davis, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, UGA Extension Bartow County

It’s that time of year, where shopping is in the air and overspending can be a huge problem. Avoiding overspending can make holidays easier and allow you to enjoy the season and the months after.

According to the National Retail Federation (NFR), holiday sales in November and December have averaged about 19 percent of annual retail sales over the last five years. NFR also expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total forecast, will increase between 11 percent and 15 percent to a total of between $218.3 billion and $226.2 billion. By comparison, that number was $196.7 billion in 2020.

So, how can you avoid holiday debt? There are a few things to consider. First, plan for holiday spending. Some people plan at the beginning of the year and set money aside just for holiday spending. Be sure to know how much money you can reasonably afford to spend. Remember to budget for parties, greeting cards (and postage), charitable giving, clothes for holiday functions, and other things that make your holiday joyful. Write the plan down and stick to it.

Next, be creative and remember that it’s the thought that counts. Homemade gifts like food, clothing or crafts that you pour your heart and talent into creating may be appreciated more than something purchased at a store. Happy memories are also a treasured gift. Going to a drive-in movie with the family or driving around to look at Christmas lights can be affordable and fun shared experiences.

Use sales flyers to find the best deals. Be sure to compare features, quality, and prices, as well as any extra charges for delivery, installation, and service. On big-ticket items and durable goods, the cost to use and maintain the item could make a more expensive model the better deal.

Expect to pay a fair and reasonable price for goods and services. Bargains that sound too good to be true usually are. Ask about return policies, and be sure to read labels, seals, tags, instruction booklets, and the fine print on extended warranties before you buy make the purchase.

Before going shopping, set a budget for each person on your gift. Label envelopes with each person’s name and put the budgeted amount of cash each envelope. When you go to a store with a fixed and intended amount, it’s more likely you’ll stay within your budget. You’ll also avoid interest fees accruing on an unpaid credit card balance.

Save some money for after season sales. Decorations, wrapping, and other items may be discounted by 50% or more. Buying at greatly reduced prices can save time and money for next year’s holidays.

Making thoughtful decisions about holiday spending will help reduce stress and increase your enjoyment of family and friends – during the season and in the months after.