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How to Plan Your Gift Giving on a Budget

This simple gift-buying strategy will help you stay on track and save money. 

We all start with the best intentions when it comes to saving money over the holidays. The spirit of giving (and frenzy of shopping) can easily sweep us off course, resulting in debt and regret come January. 

But you can beat that post-holiday financial hangover by creating a spending plan for your gift list. To do it, there are a few things you have to tackle first to get clear on your gift needs and your financial limits. 

Here’s how to get started creating a gift-giving plan to fit your budget. 

  1. Ask yourself, where is the money coming from? Savings account? Do you have it set aside? If not, do you have a plan? What about picking up holiday work, decorating, babysitting, or dog sitting?
  2. Check your list. Twice. Who are you giving to this year? Ask yourself some hard questions. Are there people on the list that are there out of guilt or obligation? Find the courage to revise your list to keep it meaningful to you and your family. Consider treating those not on your list to a beautiful hand-written card or a few homemade treats instead.
  3. Take a look at last year’s gifts. First, tally what you spent on your last holiday shopping bill. There are probably some surprises in there. Did you splurge on big items? Did a lot of unremarkable tchotchkes add up to big bucks? What’s still loved and used? What was easily broken, set aside, or unloved? Look for patterns in your gift-giving, and see any aren’t good uses of your hard-earned money. 
  4. Set a family expectation. When it comes to how many gifts to buy (and battling gift overload), some families use the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” formula that results in a more organized way of tackling the gift list, but also emphasizing family values regarding gifts too. 
  5. Speaking of values... Now is also a good time to think about gifts beyond the typical expectations of gadgets, toys, and clothing. What would your recipients find especially meaningful? Would experiences or homemade gifts be a thoughtful addition? Are there values you’d like your gift-giving to follow, such as creating less plastic waste, or supporting a local charity or church? How would gifting a museum membership, book by a local author, magazine subscription, or gift certificate to a local business mean to those in your community? Our gift-giving dollars can do double duty, both acknowledging our loved ones and supporting something we believe in.
  6. Set your budget. To create a gift-buying budget, create your categories first: Family, friends, teachers, neighbors, service providers, etc. Set dollar amounts for each category, then divide by the number of people in each—that’s your budget per person/gift. Stick to the budget as closely as you can and input your gift purchases as you make them. 

Whenever you have a savings goal large or small, Citizens Bank can help. Check out our great savings accounts or speak to a personal banker today!

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