Winter Holiday Saving and Spending

Key Takeaways



Americans plan to spend roughly $998 on gifts, food, and decorations in 2021


National Retail Federation (NRF) world's largest retail trade association


Do It Yourself (DIY) presents are cheap affordable options to traditional gift giving
save money this christmas like santa
Image courtesy of Navicore Solutions

The winter holidays are the most expensive time of the year. Presents aside, there is also traveling, large family meals, decorations, and so much more in terms of expenses. Most Americans spend at least one whole paycheck or even tap into their savings funds during the holiday season -- according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans plan to spend roughly $998 on gifts, food, and decorations in 2021. We know this can be a stressful time of year, so we wanted to give you some financial tips to help you create your own spending plan for December.

  1. Before you even start shopping, you should set a budget. This budget should cover everything from the most expensive purchases like airfare or presents, to smaller things like large family meals, eating out, and even wrapping paper. When planning gifts, we also find it to be helpful to set budget limits oh what you're planning to spend per person, or per gift. We also recommend communicating your spending plan to your loved ones so they can support you in your holiday decision making and understand your thinking/planning. It's always better to communicate financial goals than to feel anxious about doing it later or feel like you need to explain yourself later on down the line.
  2. Make sure you're sticking to your financial goals during the holiday season. That absolutely means not raiding your emergency fund, or dipping into your savings account. This can be challenging, but automating your savings and using apps like Mooch to automate your budget (and reward you to do so) can really support you with this. Another way to limit your spending it to only pay with cash. While this may require a little more effort than just swiping a credit card, it gives you a cold hard stop on spending. If you do need to spend more than you had planned or withdrawn, you'll have to go get out more cash which will give you time to think more critically about your spending, and whether or not you really need those extra expenses.
  3. Use browser extensions to save. Invisible Hand will notify you if there are lower prices available on the product, flight, hotel or rental car you’ve been shopping for online and provides a link to the lowest price. Honey automatically finds and applies coupons for you at checkout.
  4. Browse in incognito mode. This will allow you to access first time customer coupon codes, or anonymously reuse coupons you may have already used in the past.
  5. Schedule a home energy audit. Those heating bills really start climbing at this time of year, especially with so many people going in and out. A professional energy engineer can review your home and give recommendations for being more energy efficient. In some states, this is even a free service. Even if it's not free in your area, one or two recommendations can end up saving you so much money that the audit pays for itself many times over.
  6. Turn down that thermostat at night! People sleep better when it's colder anyway. According to, turn down your thermostat 7-10 degrees for at least 8 hours a day can save close to 10% a year on your energy bill. You can even program your thermostat to do this automatically so you don't even have to think about it.
  7. An easy way to save money on presents is to make them yourself! DIY is a fun way to get creative and crafty with your gift-giving or decorating. Some ideas we love:

DIY Decorations

  • Popcorn or cranberry garlands for Christmas trees
  • Evergreen tree cuttings for holiday door wreaths or decorations around the house
  • Sparkly or scented pinecones in bowls as centerpieces.
  • Wrapping paper Christmas trees
  • Paper snowflake strands
  • Evergreen cuttings wrapped around candles

DIY Presents

  • Cocktail in a mason jar kit -- shooters, flavored simple syrup, mixers
  • Aromatherapy room spray -- essential oils + distilled water in a spray bottle with a handwritten or printed label
  • Decorated picture frame -- add seashells, sparkles, paint, or even send a message with Scrabble tiles
  • Photo coasters -- laminated photos glued on wood or ceramic coasters
  • Macrame wall hanging
  • Knitted blanket, hat, scarf
  • Beeswax food wraps -- Cloth, beeswax, pine resin
  • Rope baskets -- rope, glue gun
  • Rosemary, orange and thyme flavored salt (or any flavors you want)
  • Lemon, garlic, or pepper infused olive oil
  • Homemade vanilla or lemon extract
  • Rose water facial spray -- rose petals, distilled water, rose essential oil, witch hazel
  • Lip balm -- beeswax beads, coconut oil, essential oil, empty lip balm tubes

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