Holiday Budgeting Tips to Control Your Spending


The holiday season has begun and you're wondering how you're going to cover all the costs to make sure everyone in your family has an amazing time. Gifts, meals, decor, and travel expenses all quickly add up – and maybe you can't find any room in your budget.

Luckily, our guide is here to help you create a realistic holiday budget and control your spending so you make it through the holidays with your wallet intact. Read on for our handy list of holiday spending tips!


First, let's talk about budgeting in general. A good budget means you know exactly how much you have to spend after you've covered all your regular household expenses. You can work out where the extra holiday money is going to come from and then stick to a holiday spending plan.

On the other hand, overspending during the holidays means you start the new year saddled with debt. Without a budget, you may spend the first part of the year paying off last year's expenses, instead of being able to look forward and plan for the future.


Here are our top holiday shopping tips to save you time and money during the busy season in Los Angeles. Each tip has a series of actionable ideas to consider – mix and match them to find the best strategy for you and your family!

1. Start Planning and Saving for the Holidays Early

Let's say you already have a monthly budget for your regular monthly income and expenses. The next step is to work out how much extra money you need to cover the holidays and start putting away enough money each month.

  • Starting early means you have time to find items that fit your budget – if you leave things to the last minute, you may have fewer choices and shipping may be slow or expensive.
  • As well as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, take advantage of other sales throughout the year.
  • Keep in mind that holiday decor, tableware, and other themed items go on sale right after the holidays.
  • Talk to your family about who is hosting each holiday and book flights in advance.

2. Set a Budget for Each Holiday Expense

It's a good idea to create a budget for each holiday spending category, like gifts, food, travel, entertainment, decor, clothes, donations, etc.

  • Review last year's eStatements and see if you want to make any adjustments.
  • Maybe you're surprised by how much you spent in one area last year and so you can plan to spend less this year.
  • Avoid shopping sprees without your budget or list in hand – it's easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and start buying things you don't need.

3. Cut Down on Non-Essential Expenses

If you're not able to save enough money throughout the year, you need to figure out where else your holiday money is going to come from. The easiest way to do this is to cut your spending.

  • Review your budget and recent eStatements to find items you can go without, such as takeout coffee, cosmetics, or online subscriptions.
  • Once you start tightening your belt to afford the holidays, you might find you can put that extra money into a savings account next year.

4. Consider the Cash in an Envelope System

Paying with cash may help you control spending easier than using your card because you will literally see your money disappear. You could take this a step further and use the envelope method of budgeting.

  • Get a set of envelopes and label them with your spending categories or the names of people you're buying gifts for.
  • Put in the maximum amount of cash you can spend on each category.
  • If you spend more than you're allowed for a category, you need to decide which envelope you will take the money from – so your total budget stays the same.

5. Reduce How Many Gifts You Buy

The first way to reduce your spending on gifts is to make a list of the people you usually buy for and see if you can leave a few people out. This will likely involve communication within the family.

  • Reduce gift-giving to your core family members only and not extended family.
  • See if anyone in your family wants to get together and buy one expensive gift that you know a person needs or wants, instead of everyone buying smaller gifts.
  • Ask your family, friends, or colleagues if they want to try a Secret Santa or gift draw, where each person only buys one gift for one other person.

6. Cut Down on the Cost of Gifts

Now that you have your list of gifts you must buy, you need to plan how much you'll spend on each person and in total.

  • Set a spending limit for each person on your list – only buy expensive items for your most cherished people.
  • If some people in your circles have more money than you, don't worry about matching the cost of their gifts – just stick to your budget knowing they will understand.
  • Consider buying used toys for young children and other used items for people when the condition isn't important.
  • Buy older models of electronics. For example, does Grandma care about the latest iPhone when the model a year ago is still advanced?

7. Get Creative When It Comes to Gifts

If you still don't have enough money to cover your gifts, now is the time to think outside the box. Here are a few cute ideas that your loved ones will surely appreciate:

  • Make your presents, such as baked goods, a photo album, or another type of craft.
  • Offer to do a service like cutting lawns or washing the car or windows.
  • Suggest a date to enjoy an experience together instead of a gift. For example, you could go to a local museum on the days when entry is free.
  • Tell friends and family you would rather volunteer or donate to an L.A. nonprofit rather than buy gifts – maybe they'll agree and you can all save money while helping others.

8. Combine Shopping Online With Local Stores

Nowadays, the preference is to shop online because you may find a wider selection at lower prices. Plus, you can save on gas and parking. But it's also important to support a few independent stores in your Los Angeles neighborhood.

  • If you're weighing up shopping at Glendale Galleria vs. an online store, make sure the online item is cheaper once you factor in shipping and taxes.
  • Collect mailer coupons to redeem at your favorite local stores.
  • Search for discount codes when shopping online.
  • Buy clothing items at outlet stores or Santee Alley in the Fashion District, instead of paying full price elsewhere.
  • Buy vegetables from a Los Angeles farmer's market instead of the grocery store.


Your friendly local credit union is here to help you get through the holidays so you can enjoy time with your friends and family, instead of worrying about money. Here are a few simple ways you can use Foothill Credit Union's financial services to stay within your budget.

  • Set up Online or Mobile Banking to make it easier to track holiday spending with eStatements and more.
  • Open a Christmas Club savings account and save throughout the year then receive your funds on November 1. 
  • Use a Rewards Credit Card so you can earn points on all your purchases. You can then redeem your points to buy merchandise, gift cards, experiences, and more.
  • If you know you don't have enough cash to cover the holidays, consider taking out a small personal loan that likely offers a lower interest rate than a credit card.

Click below to learn more about creating a holiday budget so you have a stress-free and festive season!

See Our Realistic Guide to Setting a Budget

Foothill Credit Union is a full-service credit union with California branches in Arcadia, Covina and Glendora.

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