How to Manage Holiday Spending in 2021

By Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman
Business Reporter
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer with a background in business and finance. Her work has appeared in national and international publications for more than 10 years. She resides in Miami and travels frequently.
November 1, 2021 Updated: November 1, 2021

After the 2020 holidays, which incurred different types of gatherings, many are looking to make 2021 better.

Retailers expect sales to increase 3 percent from last year during November and December, according to the 2021 Holiday Report by NPD. At the same time, prices are on the rise: the consumer price index (pdf) rose 5.4 percent for the 12 months ending September, a sign that consumers are paying more for products, fuel, and housing.

When it comes to holiday shopping, a little extra planning can help avoid budget blow ups.

“We all see and feel the pain of increasing consumer prices, but that doesn’t mean you have to overspend on holiday gifts and other seasonal expenses,” money-saving and shopping expert Andrea Woroch told The Epoch Times.

Setting aside time early in the season can make a difference too, especially this year.

“Growing supply chain disruptions and shipping delays will also make holiday shopping a little trickier this year,” Woroch said.

Follow these guidelines to manage holiday expenses and head into the new year financially sound.

Make a List

Start with a written budget you can use for the entire season.

“It does not have to be complex,” Tanya Peterson, vice president of brand with Freedom Financial Network in San Mateo, California, told The Epoch Times.

You might opt for an app, a spreadsheet, or a pencil and paper. Decide on how much you want to spend in all. Then, “develop a list of everything you expect to spend money on, including gifts, any cards and postage, decorations and year-end tips for newspaper carriers, housecleaners, doormen, hairdressers, and other service providers,” Peterson said.

List gift ideas and prices for each one, making sure the total doesn’t exceed the agreed upon amount.

Watch Items

“Retailers fluctuate prices daily and something on your list could go on sale well before the holiday for a day or a few hours and you could miss out if you aren’t tracking it,” Woroch said.

To find the best prices, take advantage of savings opportunities. Browser tools like Amazon Assistant and Honey’s DropList monitor price drops, and coupon plug-ins such as Cently find and check coupons for you. Rakuten, Ibotta, and Fetch provide cash back as you shop.

Track Items

“When you spot a gift at the price that fits your budget, purchase it and cross it off the list,” Peterson said.

Keep tabs on how much you’re spending, so if you go over on one gift, you can make tweaks and spend less on another. Apps like Mint will track purchases as you make them and can help you stay within the overall budget.

Think Creatively

If you’re looking for ways to keep overall spending down, consider experiences rather than toys, games, or household items.

“The gift of time can mean much more than a packaged gift,” Peterson said.

You might put together a video of family highlights of the year for a relative, offer cooking or music lessons, or plan to hike together in a nearby park.

Order Wisely

Keep in mind that stores may run out of popular toys and gift items, and shipping times could mean gifts arrive long after the holiday season ends.

“Shop early this year,” Melissa Cid, manager of MySavings.com, told The Epoch Times.

“Many stores have great return policies for the holidays that extend returns up to 90 days compared to the normal 30.”

This way, if you find a better deal at a different store, you can return the original gift. Some stores have a price guarantee, so if the price of a purchased product decreases prior to Christmas you’ll receive a price adjustment.

“Stock, distribution, and shipping delays are a real challenge for shoppers this year and stores will be having their Black Friday sales early to accommodate,” Cid said.

Choose Curbside

When shopping online, you can compare stores to see which places have the item you want in stock. Rather than having the product shipped to you, consider picking it up curbside.

“Just because a site says they have the item in stock doesn’t guarantee you will get it in time for the holiday season, especially with the supply chain disruptions building,” Woroch warned.

In some cases, you might need to drive to a nearby town to pick up the item. This option might still be better, however, than crossing your fingers and hoping it arrives in time for the holiday.

Plan a Back Up

If you want to give some of the season’s popular toys, such as Legos, the Nintendo Switch, or L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, consider getting a backup gift option so you have something to give in case the first choice doesn’t arrive.

“I also like planning generic gift backups for those last-minute holiday party invites,” Woroch said. If you purchase a few extra boxes of chocolates, skin care items, or scented candles, you’ll have something on hand to give the hostess for any impromptu gatherings.

“Hold on to receipts because you can usually return them afterwards if you don’t use them,” Woroch said.

Rachel Hartman
Business Reporter
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer with a background in business and finance. Her work has appeared in national and international publications for more than 10 years. She resides in Miami and travels frequently.