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Holiday Shopping with a Financial Mind$et


As we approach the Christmas season, be mindful of excessive holiday spending. While Christmas is the season of giving, excessive spending can lead to much regret, depression, and even added financial struggles in the new year. According to Berden and Haws (2012), spending can quickly get out of hand when it is driven by emotions rather than a plan. Have you ever gone to the store to grab a few items, but as you stroll next to the; buy one get one free, the rollbacks, the manager's special, and the end caps - You leave with a cart full of items?

If not addressed, impulse buying of gifts can lead to severe financial drain. Several consumer correspondents report that various age groups, especially Millenials, spend more during the holiday than at any other time of the year. Hence, this upward movement has resulted in a very high index compared to post-pandemic spending. As a result, we can quickly tell our program participants to refrain from spending during the holidays because of their already low cash flow. However, you would be surprised how many people end up in debt with the same credit cards they cleared before Christmas.

Working with college adults, they believe they are okay if they make minimum monthly payments to their bills. However, as we get older and wiser, we now realize that if we carry a balance every month, the more debt we bury ourselves in. The key objective is to have a plan and be disciplined enough to stick with it. So, as you share with your communities or classes about Holiday Shopping, here are a few ways to help them control holiday spending:

Create a Budget: Budgets can only be worthwhile if you follow them. Approach the holidays as you would when filing your taxes. We all want to get the maximum returns we qualify for when we hit submit. Trust me, I am finding every possible deduction there is.

Consider Shipping Cost & Taxes: Pay close attention to delivery fees, service fees, and any other transaction costs. Note to yourself that retailers will offer free shipping days like Amazon Prime delivery to attract customers to make purchases. It is important that before you click add to cart or buy, you have done thorough research about the product.

Get Creative and Make Your Own Gift: If you are great at DIY, think about making a gift for someone. Last year, I created hoodies with all the boys' names using a Cricut. That was something they wore as soon as it was laundered.

Set a Limit, and Do not Exceed it: You do not need to buy everyone a gift. Why do you need to buy gifts for your aunt's nephew on your dad's side, twice removed? After you give this gift, will this person be around to celebrate with you in the future? Stop spending money to impress people, who are not in it with you when the going gets tough.

Use a Gift Card or Spend Cash: This is a great way to limit yourself as you go out. Once the funds are done, you are done too. I do a gift card system at home. My kiddo has a gift card for snacks and games. The limit is $10 a week. Once the $10 is spent on the card, he has to wait until he earns another $10 on the card by doing chores. The cards are reloadable at the local store. When he gets older, he knows how to use a card responsibly, but I can add him to my credit card to start building credit.

Redeem Credit Card Rewards: Some cards offer bonuses and an option to redeem gift cards. You can pass these gift cards out as gifts or redeem them for gas usage. Additionally, tap into more refunds by downloading apps like 'Getupside' and earn even more.

Window Shop: Take the time to compare prices online and in stores. Even though it is not a brand name, it could still be better quality. I bought some headphones at the Five and Below Store several years ago, and every time I hit the gym, they are still functioning. You are likely to save big by gifting an off-brand or older version of an item.

Please do not spend your Rent Money: After everyone opens their gifts, life goes on in January. It is better to pass up on giving someone a gift versus asking that person if you can use their utilities when yours gets disconnected. When hard times hit, be sure you have plans A and B in your back pocket.

Be Careful of Subscriptions: It is effortless to sign up for discounts, take goods on hire purchases, and open cards where you spread the payment equally over six months for a subscription. However, what happens when you only pay some of the money within six months? You inherit the backlog of interest charges. The creditor is not going to share this information from the fine print with you while you are busy getting that discount.

Give the Gift of Time: Your time could be more valuable to your family than all the gifts you can give. It is all good and dandy to receive a gift, but what if you gave a coupon book out this year for a free hug, date night, or a free breakfast in bed?

I anticipate this will help you plan for instructional time to empower our communities with a Financial Mind$et. Please feel free to reach out to the author if you have any questions.


Bearden, W. O., & Haws, K. L. (2012). How low spending control harms consumers. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 40, 181-193.

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Deon, that is a great key point about gifting. But who are the people or even age groups that are really bent on reducing their budget for gifts during the holiday amid inflation pressure? There is so much room for a whole new discussion that could be taken in so many directions. I am leading a first-year college class on how price consciousness has become a defining characteristic of consumer behavior in a few weeks; let me know if you are interested in collaborating. Thanks for the insight!

Something to think about Troy! The holidays can really put you in that festive mode, that you totally forget to check your account and realize that you are spending way too much money.  Half the things that we give as gifts never get used. I believe we should definitely put a spending plan together for the holidays and stick to it.   


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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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