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The Nitty Gritty

Tips for smart holiday spending

The holiday season is officially here. With all the excitement this time of year brings, it can be easy to take the good cheer too far and overspend, leaving you with months of bills and high credit card charges in the new year.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your holiday budget on track this season without becoming a total scrooge.

Develop a game plan

Start the season off right by evaluating your finances and setting a realistic budget. Always base your holiday spending on the state of your current finances instead of allowing the wants of those on your list to drive your spending. You shouldn’t feel guilty about making decisions based on your unique financial situation.

With your overall budget in mind, determine how much you can spend for each person on your list. For couples who share accounts, make your gift list together, set limits on what you each can spend and talk about how you will pay for them.

If you can’t afford to be as generous, consider giving less expensive, more practical gifts. Or you could trim your gift buying list to include only your closest family and friends, while sending personalized cards to everyone else.

Assess your finances
Once you have a tentative all-in budget, you’ll also want to review your checking account and credit card balances for a reality check before getting too wrapped up in the holiday spending spirit.

Use your debit card to pay for as much as you can. There’s no interest to worry about and no surprises later. For the rest of your purchases, consider a low, fixed-rate loan, like our Holiday Loan, which is an alternative to high credit card rates with automatic payments that are easy to build into your budget. If you can’t pay off your purchases immediately or in a short amount of time, re-assess your plan.

Four things to keep in mind

  1. You don’t have to spend your entire budget. See if you can come in under budget by comparison shopping from multiple stores or websites to make sure you have the best deal or save on shipping costs.
  2. If your credit or debit card has a rewards or points program like ScoreCard Rewards™, check your points totals and redemption options. You may be able to apply points you’ve earned towards gift purchases at major retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Macy’s and more. True, you’ll give up the points for yourself, but avoiding extra holiday debt might be worth it.
  3. Giving a gift does not always mean purchasing an item to give to someone. Often, your loved ones will view your time as more valuable than money or a flashy purchase. For example, instead of buying yet another baby gift, give the new mother in your life a free night of babysitting. She will appreciate the time you’ve given just as much, if not more, than a gift you could have purchased.
  4. A handmade gift is treasured. Letting your creative side shine doesn’t have to mean spending a lot. For example, if you enjoy baking, handwrite your favorite cookie recipe and fill canning jars with your favorite ingredients – voila, you can give the gift of a ready-made cookie baking kit.


For many of us, the holidays are all about enjoying time with our loved ones, but you do not have to spend a certain amount of money to ensure your family experiences all the joy the season has to offer. Some creativity, planning and self-discipline can go a long way toward helping you enjoy the holidays knowing you’re entering the new year with your budget intact.