How to Build the Perfect Holiday Shopping Budget

November 9, 2023

The holidays are getting close. Time for family gatherings, lots of cheer, and hopefully a healthy bank account at the end of the season.

Like most people though, you might be feeling the effects of inflation this year, and keeping costs under control may be a challenge even if you’re traditionally very frugal. To that end, a recent survey by Bankrate found that 53% of shoppers plan to use a credit card for at least some of their upcoming holiday purchases, and 54% expect they will feel financially burdened this year.

But don’t get discouraged … we at Chambers Bank are not here to put coal in your stockings! We are here to help you plan ahead and avoid unnecessary spending so your holiday time can be as relaxing and stress-free as possible.

In this article, we will discuss how to build a realistic holiday budget that works for your account and for your heartstrings. Follow these steps to get started.


Set Up a Spending Plan

Before you start swiping cards or filling out online card info, you need to know your financial bottom line and that means determining how much you are able to spend. You can review old account statements and last year’s holiday spending to get an idea, but making a list and totaling your projected expenses by category will give you the most accurate picture of how much money you really need for 2023. 

The categories include:

  • Gifts
  • Gift-giving supplies
  • Decorations
  • Food and drinks
  • Events and activities
  • Travel
  • Clothing and costumes
  • Shipping supplies and stamps
  • Charitable donations
  • Miscellaneous

Once you’ve determined the total dollar amount you can spend, keep your list on hand as you make purchases so you can track your spending as you go. Our Personal Finance tool is a great way to categorize and track your holiday purchases, but you can also take advantage of one of the many spending trackers out there available for computer and mobile use.


Decide How to Pay For Holiday Expenses

Ideally, you should have cash available in your bank accounts to cover purchases made with your debit or credit cards. If you’re worried you will overspend, try using cash to pay for items on your list whenever possible. 

Remember, if you plan to shop with your Chambers Debit Card, you can take advantage of the SecureLOCK Equip app to set transaction spending limits, receive alerts, monitor transactions, and more. This is a great feature of the app that will help keep your holiday spending in check.

Are you using credit cards this holiday season? If you do, it’s best that you have the cash to pay off balances within one billing cycle so you aren’t subject to the current high interest rates of most major credit card companies.

You can also look for a low-interest or no-interest introductory credit card and put purchases on that if you know you can pay the balance off within the introductory time period. Please use caution if you choose this option, and if you would like advising on this choice, feel free to make an appointment to speak with one of our personal banking representatives.


Shop Early, Shop Smart

Nothing says “stress” like being in a store on December 24th and scrambling for the very last gifts on the shelves. 

If you want to avoid this stress and the potential for overspending, plan to start your holiday shopping early. The ideal window for shopping is usually between October and the end of November when you can take advantage of better item selections and special shopping dates like Black Friday and Cyber Monday

What’s interesting about shopping this year is that at least half of shoppers interviewed by Bankrate said they were planning to begin their holiday shopping by Halloween, while close to 40% planned to shop in November, and just 13% were waiting until December to buy gifts and other holiday items.

Overall, by shopping early, you’ll not only have much better odds of getting exactly what’s on your list, but you’ll also free your time up in December for holiday activities, wrapping gifts, and spending time with friends and family. 


Look for Discounts, Promo Codes, and Free Shipping Options

The holidays are a time when many retailers offer purchase discounts and deals on shipping to encourage you to buy from them. If you do some research, you may actually find combinations of discounts and shipping options that save you hundreds of dollars overall.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are traditionally times when retailers offer free shipping, but you can also check out RetailMeNot, Slickdeals, and Rakuten for discount codes, promo codes, and free shipping deals specific to the retailers you want to purchase from.

Additionally, if you still have holiday purchases to make in December, put December 14th on your calendar because December 14th is National Free Shipping Day! Started by internet entrepreneur Luke Knowles in 2008, National Free Shipping Day is a time you can take advantage of free shipping offered by participating retailers. And here’s the bonus: Delivery by Christmas is guaranteed!


Consider Alternative Gift-Gifting Options

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make the holidays special, and many times, it’s just as fulfilling to simply have time off with friends and family. If you’ve decided that you need to limit your spending this year or you just want to try something different, consider some of these options:

  • Do a gift exchange instead of buying gifts for each friend or family member. Draw names ahead and set a dollar limit for each gift.
  • Give a group gift. If you need to cut back on spending but still want to give gifts, try buying one gift an entire family can enjoy, whether it’s a new electronic device, tickets to an event, or a game.
  • Make something homemade. Handcrafted and homemade items are trending pretty high these days; just look at Etsy. That said, if you can craft something unique, bake a delicious treat, or create something personal like a photo collage, you will be giving a gift sure to be remembered for years to come.
  • Give your knowledge and experience. If you have a particular skill, you could help a friend or family member out instead of buying a physical gift. For example, maybe you know how to tile a floor or backsplash, refinish a piece of furniture, or install lighting in a room. These are all options that anyone would surely appreciate.


Wrapping Up the Holidays with Chambers Bank

However you plan to celebrate the holidays this year, we at Chambers Bank want you to have fun, make lots of memories, and feel good about your finances. 

Altogether, if you have questions about any of our products or apps as you do your holiday shopping, please contact our Customer Care Center any time during regular business hours at 1-800-603-1226 or visit us at one of our branch locations.


Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

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