Table Talk Thursdays

6 Ways On How To Plan For Gift Budgeting and Spending6 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes We asked our community what strategies they use to make the gift-giving holidays more blessed and less stressed. Here are a few ideas to spark a little more joy in your season.

September 24, 2020 4 min read
Plan For Gift Budgeting

6 Ways On How To Plan For Gift Budgeting and Spending6 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Regardless of how you feel about lights, candles, stockings, dreidels, and ugly sweaters in the store in September, they are here. And for many of us, they are accompanied by a nagging, stressful sensation that stems from wondering how we’re going to manage the financial aspect of the December holidays.

We asked our community what strategies they use to make the gift-giving holidays more blessed and less stressed. Here are a few ideas to spark a little more joy in your season.

Make a List (check twice)

We keep a running list of what we think people want. We write ideas down as we talk to them, or they mention something they are interested in. We have found that that works really well. We also start saving for Christmas anywhere from 4-6 months in advance, depending on the budget tightness that year. We always try to buy the items on sale, secondhand, or go for experiences on Groupon! Couples get one present combined, instead of one present each (with the exception of our parents). Because we both come from blended families, costs can definitely add up, so these rules help us! In the end, it averages to $30-50person/couple.


We each have a list of gifts that we know the other person wants / needs. Ss the year goes on, that list grows bigger. Then when it comes to the holiday season, we just pick from that list.


If a list has worked this long for Santa, it’s a strategy worth trying. The sheer quantity of gifts can get overwhelming as December approaches, especially if you have a large or blended family.

Sometimes we put ourselves under pressure to give gifts to everyone. Make a list of the people you definitely will give gifts to. Jot down gift ideas for each person as they mention things they like or are interested in.

Keeping a list will help you organize your gift-giving efforts, ensuring that you aren’t buying gifts for the sake of doing so and that no one gets left off the list.

Stick to a Budget

We usually budget year-round for gifts. We also usually up our food category during holiday months to account for extra food costs. I try to keep a loose idea of a budget per person (kids), and most of the adults are in a gift exchange with a price limit. I am pretty strict about the budget, but I also give us a cushion for any last-minute events or gifts that we might attend or need.


Sit down with your partner and hash out what you’re planning to spend for the season. You can set an overall limit on holiday spending or a specific dollar amount per person—whatever works for your budget.

Include little, extra gifts in your budget, like co-workers, neighbors, white elephant parties, and your children’s teachers. Don’t forget to account for the extra food, decorations, and other expenses that aren’t necessarily presents.

Our contributors use a variety of budgeting methods to ensure they have sufficient funds to cover December spending. Here are a few of their favorites.

Sinking Funds

I used to start my shopping in August, looking for the best deal, and I would buy slowly over the course of four months. I gave generously at the expense of my debt increasing year over year. That changed last year with the introduction of a sinking fund. This gave me a cap to how much I could spend so I became more intentional with gift-giving

If sinking funds aren’t your jam or in your budget, I would suggest rounding up all your purchases from January to November and using that money towards gift-giving, either through a bank account function or through change. This little saving method makes an impact on the mental space gift-giving can take. There are no dark feelings or brain fog when someone opens a gift, just the joy of giving.


Save a predetermined amount each month to cover your holiday spending. That way, when the sales hit, you’ll have plenty of cash to take advantage of the opportunities to snag gifts at a great price.

Even if you can’t save up the whole amount you spend, using an app that rounds up or throwing loose change in a jar can help offset the cost of the holidays. Every little bit helps!

Year-End Bonus

For clients who usually receive Christmas or year-end bonuses, those go into the planning as well. With all the craziness this year, however, it’s not a bad idea to budget savings monthly for holiday spending along the way. Then if you do receive your bonus, as usual, you can make a plan for the surplus!


If you’re lucky enough to get a Christmas bonus, you can use it for your holiday expenses. This is a great strategy because it doesn’t interfere with your normal budget, and it doesn’t take any forethought or discipline.

Just make sure you have a good idea about how much your bonus will be and don’t overspend.

Credit Card Rewards

I have $1000+ in reward points that I would normally use for travel. Since I’m not traveling for a while, I’m going to use that money for holiday gifts.


Most credit card rewards—even for travel cards—can be converted to gift cards. Save up your points during the year, then use them for the holidays. Make a present of the gift cards themselves or use them to buy gifts for loved ones.

Check your credit card rewards site often, since may periodically run “sales” on certain gift cards that offer a better points-to-dollar ratio.

Make Your Own Gifts

I try to handmake gifts as much as possible since I know so many people have everything they need already. This reduces waste and doesn’t make people feel obligated to spend money on gifts for me. I’d rather my friends and family give at a price point they’re comfortable with instead of feeling obligated to meet an amount due to social norms or guilt. I also freely tell people not to spend too much or I ask for low price-point items.


Whether you’re looking for a less-commercialized present or trying to save money, homemade gifts add a little special something to the season. These unique, one-of-a-kind gifts are all the more thoughtful for the time and effort you put into making them. The internet is replete with DIY gift ideas for everyone on your list.

Seeing a smile light up your friend’s face is one of the reasons we love giving gifts. With some thoughtful planning, you can capture the spirit of holiday giving without detracting from your financial goals.

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