Are You Going To Spend Over $1,000 This Holiday Season?

The average person spends around $900 on gifts for the holiday season, according to American Research Group. That amount doesn’t even account for other holiday spending, such as travel costs, food, get togethers, decorations, and more. Some people even go into credit card debt to spend for the holidays, but is that really worth it?…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

The holidays can be expensive, but they don't have to be if you are mindful of how you spend and find holiday savings. Let's save money this holiday season!The average person spends around $900 on gifts for the holiday season, according to American Research Group. That amount doesn’t even account for other holiday spending, such as travel costs, food, get togethers, decorations, and more.

Some people even go into credit card debt to spend for the holidays, but is that really worth it?

I’m going to guess not.

Putting your holiday spending on a credit card is a major problem because you will eventually have to pay off that debt.

Plus, interest and other finance charges may be added, meaning that small amount you put on your credit card will grow into a much bigger number. This can then impact your credit score, your credit history, your debt to income ratio, and more.

Going into debt for gifts and holiday events just adds stress, and it takes away from the true meaning of the holiday season.

The holidays can be quite expensive, but they don’t have to be if you are mindful of how you spend and save for the holidays.

Below are my tips on how to increase your holiday savings and not go into debt.


Set a budget.

Before you make a list of all the things you want to buy for the holidays, you should set a realistic holiday budget. This will help you analyze your holiday spending so that you can spend less money and not go into any holiday debt.

I recommend seeing how much money you already have set aside for the holidays, analyze how much you think you will spend, and figure out what you need to do so that you don’t go over your spending budget.

Items you’ll want to think about and possibly include in your holiday budget are:

  • Gifts
  • Transportation costs
  • Food for parties and get togethers
  • Stamps
  • Holiday cards
  • Wrapping supplies
  • Decorations


Use cash when shopping.

Similar to a no spend challenge, using only cash when shopping can prevent impulse purchases.

A cash budget works because you only have so much money to work with. If you spend all of your cash, then you won’t be able to purchase anything else.

This can help you separate your “wants” from your “needs” when shopping.

When doing your holiday shopping with cash, you will have to carefully plan out each purchase, each time you go to the store, and so on.


Give just one gift.

If you’re running low on time or money, you may just want to give one gift to each person. I know some people who are giving numerous gifts around the holidays, and while they may be able to afford it, I’m sure there are some who cannot.

Remember, the holidays are not about the gifts. Instead, focus on what you truly can afford, even if that means you can only give one present. It’s the thought that counts, not the gift or the amount of gifts that you give!


Get cash back on your shopping.

Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn CASH BACK for spending how you normally would online. The service is free too!

Plus, when you sign up through my link, you will receive an extra $10 cash back!


Find ways to cut back right now.

There are lots of little things you can do that may help you to save money now and well into the future. Even if you can only find $100 extra dollars to spend, that’s still $100 more than what you had before.

You can:

  • Get rid of your cable.
  • Find a more affordable cell phone plan.
  • Eat out less. Eat out just one or two times less this month and then you’ll have more holiday spending money!
  • Negotiate your car and home insurance bills.
  • Cancel your gym membership.

Read about even more ways to save money at 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month.


Secret Santa is your friend.

If part of your holiday celebration is gift giving with all of your family and friends, you may want to think about doing a gift exchange where each person only gives one meaningful gift to just one person. This can save a lot of money, as well as a lot of time. Plus, you’ll be able to put more thought into a gift as you’ll just be giving one.

This is something that we do with my husband’s family. The younger children still get gifts from everyone, but all of the adults just do an exchange. It makes it much easier and more enjoyable!


Find ways to make additional holiday spending cash.

If you can’t find ways to cut back, then you may want to find ways to make more money. This can make the holiday season a little more enjoyable as you won’t have to go into debt or use your savings in order to purchase holiday gifts.

Plus, there are tons of things you could do to make extra money. If you’re looking for a part-time job, there are plenty of places that are looking for holiday help, such as UPS, Kohls, Macy’s, Christmas tree lots, restaurants, and more.

There are many other ways to make extra money as well:


Shop for the holidays as soon as you can.

Starting your holiday shopping now is better than waiting until the last day- or even the day of!

There are many savvy shoppers who start up to a full year before the holiday they are celebrating.

You may call them crazy, but I’m sure it saves them a lot of stress and money.

The earlier you start shopping, the more money you are likely to save. This is because you won’t be in a rush to find what you are hoping to buy, and you will be able to shop the sales as they come. When someone is low on time, they are more likely to buy items they may not need at a price that is higher than usual.

Related tip: I highly recommend signing up for a FREE 30 day Amazon Prime account, as this can really help you save money when it comes to holiday shopping. This free 30 day account gives you unlimited FREE two-day shipping, you can borrow Kindle books, watch movies and TV episodes, and more.


Start saving early.

While this tip won’t necessarily work for this holiday season, you can start saving and preparing for 2017.

By saving a little bit of money each day, each week, or even each month right now, you’ll make the sting of holiday season spending a little less painful, as you’ll already have saved and budgeted for it!

One way is to take part in a holiday savings challenge, such as the $20 Savings Challenge.

The $20 Savings Challenge is a great way to easily save $1,040 this year without noticing! All you have to do is save $20 each week for a year, and then you’ll easily have $1,040.


Lastly, remember the true meaning of the holidays.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, remember the real reason for celebrating.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to be happy, instead think about spending more quality time with your loved ones.

How much money will you spend this holiday season? How do you plan on increasing your holiday savings?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor

    We usually spend around $600 and that is with some secret Santas, only buying 1 gift per person, and not spending a lot per person. It quickly adds up when you have a lot of family to buy for. This year I’m ready to do kids only. We don’t need anything, and I’m out of ideas for the other adults because everyone has what they need. I’m hoping the suggestion goes over well!

    1. Good luck! 🙂 This is pretty much what we do with our families.

  2. We save up throughout the year so that, while we put everything on credit cards (for the cash back rewards), we pay them off in full.

    We are looking to take some measures to reduce our budget by a bit this year. My wife and I are going to scale back on each other, and we’re also doing a new Secret Santa type thing with my wife’s side of the family which will end up saving a bit compared to how we used to do it.

    1. Secret Santa is such a money saver! 🙂

  3. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    Last year, we spent between $400-$500. This year, I plan to use cash back rewards on a couple of credit cards to fund gifts, with a goal of spending just $50 out of pocket (total spending of around $350).

    I like “give just one gift” to each person – we do this. We’ve simplified over the years and reduced gift giving, which has eased up on stress and the budget.

    1. Yes, giving only one gift is a great idea for so many reasons.

  4. With my family its gifts for kids now. I make most of my gifts, I save a ton of money with limited shopping stress! haha.

    I made ‘Christmas Magic’ playdough as a gift and it was a big hit with the kids last year. Cost about $12 for four gifts.

    Always good info here. 🙂

    1. Christmas Magic playdough sounds awesome!

  5. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Yikes, I wasn’t even thinking of Christmas presents yet. Oops! Last year I’m sure we spent about $800 just on presents; never mind travel expenses.

    I never thought to set a budget for the holidays before, but that’s what we really need to do. This year we’re going to focus more on DIY and homemade gifts to offset the cost while giving something meaningful. I guess I need to really get the ball rolling!

    1. Travel expenses definitely add up!

  6. Lindsey

    We have been putting away for the holidays since January, and we are actually almost done with all our shopping now :). Spreading it out makes it easier on the shopping, AND we actually get to enjoy the holiday season

  7. I think a lot of spending comes into play when we forget about those “forgotten” expenses that you mentioned above. We plan for gifts all year round and perhaps even traveling, but those other things like postage, wrapping, and food for work potlucks and such all add up! Great advice, Michelle!

    1. Yes, exactly! It all can add up so quickly.

  8. Oh the Christmas budget! It’s so important so we don’t end up in serious trouble long after the holidays are over! I just did a 15 day Christmas series & have a free Christmas planner for any who are looking for one!

  9. Amy

    We usually do a secret Santa drawing on both mine and my husband’s side of the family. We also decided that our children would receive three gifts from us and one Santa gift. We are able to put a lot of thought into what we get them, and it helps us stay within a tighter budget. Since our kids know to expect three gifts, they aren’t disappointed that there isn’t a pile gifts as high as the tree. 🙂 All in, we spend about $500 on holiday shopping (including exchanging gifts with my husband, food, cards, etc). You are so right to think about the little things, though…stamps and cards can really add up!

    1. Great job! Sounds like you have a great plan 🙂

  10. Our family are not into christmas [we love Jesus] to us it just one of those days, we prefer to splurge on birthdays so these no way we can spend $1000.

    1. We hardly give any gifts. I’m a huge Christmas person, but I’m not a huge fan of gifts, haha.

  11. Kathy

    We do spend a lot on Christmas….well over $1000. But we don’t do birthdays or take many elaborate vacations. We plan the amount we will spend in January and save 1/12 every month. And while we do put purchases on the charge card, we keep a running total of expenditures and the money is in the Christmas fund to pay the cards in full when the bill comes.

    1. Great job saving throughout the year!

  12. Ty

    I’ll blow by the $1,000 mark easily, but we also save a set amount from each paycheck throughout the year to fund Christmas. We spend a lot on gifts, partly because we have four kids, but also because we love the holiday and give giving is one way we celebrate. Merry Christmas!

    1. Saving for it is always a good idea 🙂 Good job!

  13. What I have been doing for the past few years is “save up” my earnings from cashback sites, surveys and money saving apps. I cash out around October or November to fund my holiday gift giving. I can afford to buy gifts without breaking my budget. It makes the holidays so much less stressful.

  14. I don’t think we have ever spent $1000 on Christmas for our family. We started giving 4 gifts to each child, you might have heard about that. You buy something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. This has really helped with keeping our shopping AND our clutter to a minimum. 🙂

  15. Christmas is the holiday for giving, but it is also the holiday for giving away a lot of your money! It is so important to set a budget and stick to it! The phrase “holiday of giving” does not mean you have to give a ridiculous amount of gifts that are quite costly! It can be as simple and cost-efficient as DIY gifts or by limiting the amount of gifts you give out per person, such as the three gift rule!

  16. Rebecca

    My family, close friends and I came to an agreement 1-2 years ago that we would get each other one gift or give the gift of time. It’s a time to celebrate with those you love and a religious holiday for most of us, so gift giving comes in the form of the time we have together. For instance, some friends and I will do a get-together where we spend the day together or throw a small party in celebration. I do give all those close to me a gift (I love having the excuse to give people things!), but it’s nothing big so my budget, if you factor in travel, gifts, baking etc. comes in under $300 a year.