The holidays are once again upon us, bringing with it the joy — and stress — of finding the perfect gift for that special someone. And while consumer spending is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time this season, there’s no reason for everyone to hop on the bandwagon. 

In fact, Primerica’s most recent Financial Security Monitor™ (FSM™) found the majority (83%) of middle-income families plan to spend the same or less on holiday shopping this year compared to last year. Broken down, more than two-fifths (43%) of middle-income Americans say they will spend less than they did in 2022, and a similar share (40%) plan to spend about the same amount. Just 7% plan to spend more, and 10% said they weren’t sure how much they would spend. 

That’s in contrast to Deloitte’s annual survey, which found the average consumer plans to spend $1,652 this season, the highest tally since 2019. Still, that survey found Americans are on the hunt for bargains and looking to stretch their budgets amid high inflation by buying fewer gifts, spending more on gift card and shopping sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Primerica’s latest survey also indicates that finding the best holiday deals remains important to middle-income Americans. About three-quarters (76%) said discounts and sales would be important when they shop for gifts this year, with a majority (54%) indicating they will be “very important.” 

It’s easy to go overboard during the holiday shopping season, but now is the time to really set and buckle down on your budget as you get ready to head online or hit the stores in the coming weeks. Here are a few tips to ensure that spreading holiday cheer won’t break the bank:

  • Set — and stick to — your budget. Figuring how much you will spend this holiday season is important, but so is figuring out how you will pay for those items. Instead of putting everything on your credit card, where it’s easy to quickly rack up debt, consider paying in cash instead. You’ll lose out on credit card points, but you’ll be better able to track how much you’ve spent and how much you have leftover.
  • Make a list — and check it twice. Once you’ve set an overall budget, you’ll want to jot down a list of friends and family who you want to buy gifts for and then break down how much you will spend on each individual person. But remember not all gifts need to cost much — or anything! — to make an impression.
  • Shop the sales. Holiday deals seem to start earlier and earlier each year, and you no longer need to rely on the four-day period between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get the best bargain. Keep track of sales each week, scour the internet for deals and clues on when your favorite store might have the best prices and consider setting price alerts online for specific items you know you need. 
  • Avoid impulse buys. Whether you mainly shop online or at a brick-and-mortar store, retailers are always looking to grab you with those extra add-on items before you check out. Impulse buys may feel fun in the moment, but it doesn’t take long for one or two purchases to become several — and before you know it, you’re over budget. Avoiding these extra costs at all costs will ensure that your holiday shopping season doesn’t end with a hit to your financial planning.
  • Consider homemade gifts: It’s the thought that counts, and that couldn’t be any more relevant during the holiday season. A home-cooked meal, cookies or other baked goods or an arts and crafts project you put together yourself can mean just as much — if not more — to the receiver than something you picked up online or at a store. You can also consider giving the gift of time: Volunteer for babysitting or petsitting duty for the year ahead, helping your family members or friends save money as well. 

The holidays may be a time for showing how much you care, but even grandma wouldn’t want you to sacrifice your financial future just to get her that big, expensive gift. Setting and sticking to a budget now will pay dividends in the long run and doing it consistently each holiday season is a smart way to secure your financial well-being for decades to come.

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