The holidays are beloved by many for the chance to show others that they’re cared for, and to feel uplifted by the recognition that others care for you. It’s almost impossible to separate holidays from gift-giving at this point in our cultural lives, and so, the season of giving also becomes a season of spending for many.

Consumers will likely spend an average of $1,563 this year, up 3.7 per cent from $1,507 in 2017, according to a survey by PwC released last week. For plenty of shoppers, this money is likely to be spent on credit, leading to a post-holiday “debt hangover” that can impact financial stability through the whole new year. It’s important to keep your holiday spending in check – enough so that you’re at least avoiding adding to your debt load once the snow has melted and the spring is on its way.

Set Limits

As you approach the holiday shopping season, make a special consideration for it in your budget. Set expectations with the people on your list, and don’t fall victim to the pressure to please everyone. This is a time to share with the people who mean the most to you: focusing on these people will keep you from letting your to-gift list grow longer than a jolly old elf’s beard.

Similarly, if you’re worried about the awkward exchange that might take place if a friend or relative gifts you something more expensive than you’re comfortable with reciprocating – take the time to make it clear that you’d rather keep things low key this year too.

Beware the Craft Trap

Giving homemade gifts is always a festive pleasure: it really shows that you’ve done something meaningful for the recipient beyond going to the store and picking something out. Doing gifts “DIY” can be a big budget helper, too: however, there’s a flip side to this coin. It’s not uncommon for a simple home project to go off the budget deep end, what with the abundance of frilly paper and delicate colour and whimsical doodads one can find in the nearest craft store and on glossy, high-production-value blogs and Pinterest boards that just beg to be emulated. Keep it simple!

Gift Yourself Better Spending Habits

Some people might take the holidays as a point from which to start revamping their spending. For instance, once you’ve tallied up what you may have spent on gifts, consider ways to earn that money back with optimizations to your budget over the course of the new year! Consider it a gift to yourself – one whose dividends will keep on giving as you get more efficient and effective at reducing spending beyond your means and curtailing debt.

Give Your Time

My father has never been caught up with giving lavish gifts, and he doesn’t take nearly as much pleasure from the giving or the receipt of a shiny new something for Christmas as he does from the opportunity to do something novel or to have a new experience of some kind. Think about ways to work this philosophy into your own holiday planning! Take a friend somewhere you both haven’t been in forever as your gift to them. Go on a wintry hike or excursion with your family. Gift your partner a cozy movie night in together. The bonds you create will last a lot longer than the wrapping and tinsel of a conventional holiday gift.

Don’t Stress

Though the holidays are meant to be a joyous time, they can be stressful for plenty of people (your humble author included.) There are plenty of factors that could contribute to this kind of stress: why make your spending into yet another one? With the right plan, you can avoid the “holiday spending hangover” and enter the new year feeling ready to take on all its challenges.

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