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Holiday Shopping

Stress during the holidays often comes from the pressure of shopping for gifts. If you have a tight budget and limited time, you may think you can’t have a good holiday experience. But with good planning, you can still be a generous gift giver even with limited funds.

If you plan ahead and don’t wait until the last minute, you can have the time to shop and determine the best ways to spend your money.


  • Set a spending limit, which includes travel and other expenses. Consider how much you want to spend in total for the season.
  • Create a list with names, gift ideas, and price estimates. If you cannot think of a specific gift for a person, determine a dollar limit on their gift. Make sure your planned gift totals do not exceed your overall spending limit.
  • Think of gift alternatives for each person on your list, and look for sales in your price range.
  • Keep receipts and check them periodically or review your online banking regularly to make sure you’re still within your spending limit.
  • Remember, the holidays are about celebrations and time with loved ones—presents are only part of the fun.


  • Do comparison shopping over the Internet. See which stores carry the item you want at the best price. If you decide to order online, make sure the delivery time works with your travel plans.
  • Do pre-shopping. Shopping can give you good ideas for gifts, but do not buy anything on an impulse that is not already on your list.
  • Check for sales in newspaper ads and circulars, as well as during your shopping.
  • When shopping online, look for coupon codes or email newsletters with attached coupons.
  • If you do order over the Internet, make sure when you check out there is a secure connection (your browser will show "https://" in the address bar or sometimes a closed padlock icon) and that the website has secure credit card processing to prevent identity theft.
  • Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale— one store’s sale price can be another’s regular price.
  • Shop in factory outlets, catalog showrooms, and department stores.

Credit Cards

  • Do not take credit cards on the first shopping trip. If you do not have your cards, you are less likely to buy more than you planned.
  • Make a list of things you wanted to buy but did not have the cash for. Go home, and review this list. Remember, charged items must still be paid for and must still fit in your budget.
  • Pay off any credit items in January. The holidays come every year, and you do not want to still be paying off debt when the next time rolls around.

Planning ahead is one of the most important parts of successful gift-giving—it prevents last-minute shopping that can lead to stress, fatigue, overspending, and impulsive buying.

If you need information on managing a budget, then contact your local county Extension office.

Adapted and excerpted from:

M. Gutter, "Avoiding the Holiday Spending Hangover," UF/IFAS Solutions for Your Life YouTube (11/2012).

D. Davis and J. Turner, "Budgeting for the Holidays " (FAR9000), UF/IFAS Family Youth and Community Sciences Department (rev. 03/2012).

R. McWilliams, J. Pigott-Dillard, and M. Gutter,Five Steps to Seasonal Savings” (FCS5267), UF/IFAS Family Youth and Community Sciences Department (01/2014).

Holiday gift


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