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Author: Arundel Stevens

Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Learning Low-Spending Gift Shopping 

by Arundel Stevens

As the holiday season begins, the gift-shopping frenzy is taking over. Finding the perfect gift for friends and family can be stressful, especially when you are trying to limit your spending. However, shopping for loved ones doesn’t always have to be financially stressful! Here are some tips to keep you on track and make it through the holiday season without over-spending!


Shop with Boundaries

Illustrations by Lee Aulder


The first step in efficient holiday shopping is setting distinct limits. Limit yourself to a specific amount of spending per person, and make sure to keep it in mind while shopping. Creating a spending plan can be the most important step to saving money and will keep you from getting off track and spending more than you can afford. This can be as simple as a short list of all the people you need to shop for, with a “price tag” or an “allowance” for each person. Doing the prep work can make or break your holiday shopping habits and set you up for success!

Shop Online

Though in-store shopping can be fun and get you in the holiday spirit, plenty of stores have shopping deals that are only accessible online! Learning to navigate online shopping platforms can increase your access to brand-new deals and discounts! You don’t have to rule out in-store shopping but remember to keep your options open. Additionally, comparing prices on similar products across different brands can help you save money, and stay conscious of your spending decisions. 

Shop Homemade

A well-thought-out gift does not always have to be store-bought. A homemade gift that represents your hard work and time can be just as (if not more) meaningful to the receiver. Homemade quilts, crocheted hats, knitted sweaters, handmade scrapbooks, and personalized letters are examples of gifts that are very meaningful and valuable, even though they are less expensive than a typical store-bought product. 

Shop for the Person

Just because something is expensive or trendy does not mean it is a good gift! Pay attention to the style and interests of the person you are shopping for, and tailor that gift for them specifically. Blindly buying the most trendy or pricey products of the month can be wasteful and inefficient. Some people do have expensive tastes, and it might be necessary to buy a few big gifts for your close friends or relatives who would appreciate it most. However, many people are satisfied with a well-meaning gift rather than an expensive one! Keeping the receiver’s personality and tastes in mind is important to limit spending and create the most specialized and personalized gifts!

Shop with Intent

Often, the whirl of holiday shopping can sweep you off your feet and leave you spending far more than you expected, without any idea who you were shopping for. Catch this before it happens, and pre-emptively make lists and budgets for every person you need to buy gifts for! Creating a list of the shopping you need to do can prevent overspending and make sure every gift is intentionally picked out for the receiver. Knowing exactly how much you plan to spend and who is receiving each gift can prevent that post-holiday shock when you realize you, unfortunately, went far over budget. Holiday shopping without an explicit plan can be fun, but it’s not very efficient and will probably lead to overspending!

Shop Reused

In some contexts, regifting can be perceived as rude, but it can also be very thoughtful and special. For example, giving someone a half-empty bottle of perfume might not be the best idea for a holiday gift. In contrast, giving someone a book they noticed on your bookshelf can be a personal and thoughtful present! Depending on the person and the context, giving someone a pre-owned gift can be very meaningful and cost-efficient.

Shop Coupons

Coupons sometimes receive a negative stigma. People associate coupons with older people and stingy spending, but they are actually a great tool when you are trying to limit spending! Downloading apps that provide free promo codes and rewards initiatives can be very helpful in efficient holiday shopping! Collecting coupons is a great step to achieving a successful holiday shopping season!

Shop Creative

You don’t have to buy a physical item for everyone! Expand the way you think about gift-giving, and learn to think creatively about presents. For example, instead of buying a gift, you can offer to babysit for a couple so they can have a date night, or offer to take a young relative ice skating, or take a friend to see a movie that they are excited about. Giving the gift of your time and company can be just as special and well-meaning while being much more price-efficient.


Finally, it’s most important to remember what holiday shopping is about. Holiday shopping isn’t about the money; it’s about the expression of appreciation for loved ones! If you are tight on money, you can also communicate with loved ones, possibly setting mutual limits on gift spending. Don’t go into the holidays with a stressed approach to gift-giving, just remember it is supposed to be fun!

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