The Gerber Life Parenting Blog

7 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays on a Budget

October 26, 2021

For millions of Americans, the holidays are a season of spending. In 2020, the average American household spent $998 on holiday expenses[i] like gifts, entertainment and decorations. The figures are set to be even higher in 2021, with 53% of consumers planning to increase their spending by $100 to $500.[ii] Who can blame them? We’re bombarded by ads encouraging us to spend big throughout the season and after all, we want to give memorable gifts to our loved ones.

On the other hand, 33% of consumers are trying to spend less.[iii] Many families are trying to watch their budgets, and the last thing they want is to be worried about the bills in January.

So, here’s the question: How do you keep your spending from getting too hot without throwing cold water on the holiday spirit? Here are a few ways to spread some holiday cheer without breaking the bank:

  • Start planning for the holidays early

You know December is coming, so why not go in with a game plan? Set aside money each month and you’ll have yourself a solid holiday fund. You could even set up a holiday jar and make it fun for the whole family. Everyone can contribute, watch the fund grow and avoid cutting into your day-to-day budget. You can also find out other small ways to save such as placing an order in advance to avoid express shipping and checking out store policies on returns and price matching.

  • Set a holiday budget and stick to it

Decide how much you’re comfortable spending on gifts, decorations and entertaining. To stay on track and to keep yourself accountable with holiday shopping, you can create a spreadsheet with all the people you’re buying gifts for and enter the amounts you’ve spent. Also, by following your favorite shops and brands on social media so you can be the first to know about flash sales and discount codes that you might not hear about otherwise. Check out more of our tips on how to master holiday shopping on a budget.

  • Consider shortening your list

As you make your list, you might find that you have many people to buy gifts for. As much as we’d like to make everyone happy, prioritization will be key in determining who makes the list. Or consider Secret Santa gift exchanges or grab bags to lessen the load whether it’s for extended family or co-workers at the office.

  • Don’t forget about the winter season food and decor

It’s not just gifts that you have to budget for. Whether you’re hosting or attending parties, the food and entertainment costs can add up. Before you go to the store, look for coupons you can print or scan from your phone. Buying in bulk is a smart way to stock up on party supplies. Don’t have a membership at a warehouse store? Go in with friends and family or tag along as a guest of a member — just remember to offer something in return. Visit our stress free holiday guide for more on cooking, travel, and entertainment.

  • Give personalized holiday gifts

One way to avoid overspending is to buy something that’s less expensive but more personal, or even make something yourself. As it turns out, most people prefer receiving thoughtful gifts over expensive ones.[iv] For example, you could give a collection of seeds to a friend who enjoys gardening. You could have the kids create ornaments, like this simple handprint snowman (it’s also an activity — win-win!). You could prepare a meal for someone. Inexpensive, one-of-a-kind and heartfelt: hard to go wrong with that.

  • Think beyond the holidays

Some of the best gifts keep giving long after the decorations have come down. Subscription services and meal delivery kits can go several months into the new year. Or perhaps you could give a gift with benefits that could last a lifetime, like cooking classes, contributions to a child’s college fund or a life insurance policy. Talk about making your money go a long way.

  • Shop off-season

When is the best time to get holiday gift wrapping, ornaments, and ugly sweaters? Right after the holidays when stores are trying to clear their seasonal merchandise. Stock up in January, store it in your holiday bin and you’re good to go when December rolls around.


Overall, you don’t have to spend a lot to feel festive. As long as you set reasonable expectations, it’s possible to gift, decorate and entertain on a budget. When you can keep your holiday expenses down, you’ll feel a lot better when the credit card bills arrive in January. That feeling is a gift that money can’t buy.

[i] National Retail Foundation, November 2020

[ii] Klarna, September 2021

[iii] Morning Consult, September 2020

[iv] Vistaprint, November 2019


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