Even with sticky inflation and sky-high debt, Americans plan to shell out an average of $985 on holiday-related items in 2023, according to a holiday spending survey by The Conference Board. By their count, that’s a little less than the $1,006 reported on seasonal spending last year.
The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) prediction for holiday spending in the U.S. should reach record levels in the last two months of 2023, increasing to as much as 4% over 2022, according to its annual forecast. In a separate holiday survey for the NRF, Americans say they plan to spend $875 on holiday items such as food, decorations, gifts, and other seasonal purchases.
Whether you are on track to spend about as much or you’re stomping the breaks to keep your budget from sliding off the rails, there are steps you can take to spend more strategically this holiday season without going deeper into credit card debt or breaking the bank.
Make a List
Research shows that people who create a list and use it while shopping tend to spend less than those who fly by the seat of their pants when making purchases. Plus, writing out a list requires you to be more strategic and think about who and what you spend your money on this holiday season.
Set A Budget
When you do this, take a look back at your credit card bills and/or checking account statements from November and December of last year to get an idea of how much you spent previously. Then, set an amount you can afford to spend this year without going into debt. Don’t forget to include everything from food and gifts to transportation and hotels, if you plan to travel.
Just because a retailer says it’s the lowest price of the season doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. Buyers should beware that their go-to stores or websites may be inflating prices so they can ‘reduce’ them by 50% to offer the illusion of a deal. While you’re doing research, consider signing up for free coupon apps such as PayPal Honey, Ibotta, and RetailMeNot.
Pay With Cash or Debit
If you tend to buy things you can’t afford using credit cards, do yourself a favor and tuck them away for now. Using only cash or a debit card for seasonal purchases forces you to spend what you have, of course, and helps those who might be tempted to go overboard to reign it in during the most wonderful time of the year.
Hit The Discount Stores
Remember, the holidays are no time to pay full price. That’s why it can be helpful to start your shopping at stores that already offer discounts on clothing and home goods, such as Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. To get the best deals, walk past the racks at the front of the store and start your shopping in the back where the sale and clearance items tend to be located. Thrift stores are another great place to find deals and stretch your budget. ProTip: Stores run by Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army often offer items that are new with tags.
Honor Spending Limits
If you and your family or a close circle of friends have set spending limits for the holidays, do yourself a favor and stick to the pre-set amount. Yes, it can be tempting to spend a bit more, but it can lead to hard feelings from those who play by the rules.
Ask For A Discount
Many department stores run sales beginning in November that span through the new year, sending repeat customers digital coupons via email. If you don’t have a coupon that you see others using, you can always ask the cashier if there are any additional discounts available. It never hurts to ask.
With reporting by Casandra Andrews