How to Avoid the Christmas Spending Binge

It’s Labour Day! But can we talk about Christmas for a minute?

So, hi. I am that person that starts counting down to Christmas by like… July. I know, I know, SO ANNOYING, right? But it’s cool, guys. The Christmas spirit sustains me through your side-eye.


I start decorating November 1st every year.

My (two) tree(s) is up for at least a month.

Bronner’s (the world’s largest Christmas store) is legit one of my favourite places on earth.

My satellite radio is tuned to the “all Christmas all the time” channels from the day they go on air to the day they go off. That’s like 2 straight months of carols.

I’m that person.


My love of everything Christmas has one caveat, and that is the cost.

I am also that person who gives gifts to everyone (inclusive of my mailman and garbage man, and thus, my mail never gets delivered to the wrong house and my garbage bins are always upright – win), so it gets pricey.

In my earlier gift giving years, I had this mental block when it came to gift giving: “if I’m buying something for someone else, it can’t affect my budget”. Which makes zero sense, I know. I had no guilt or second thoughts about spending, so long as it was for someone else.

These days I know better.

If you’ve ever been on Pinterest around the holidays, you’ve probably seen Christmas budgeting plans like this one:


I don’t necessarily agree with the one above (why put the biggest amount in the pot in December?) but the principle is a good one – start saving for Christmas before Christmas.

I mean, really.

Christmas doesn’t surprise us every year, it’s fairly consistent, so why do so many people end up struggling financially or even going into debt for it?

There’s no one right way to save for Christmas, but there are wrong ways (i.e. not doing it).

Set Aside Savings

My strategy is to have savings specifically allocated towards gifts. Each month, I throw money into my “gifts” pot. It’s not exclusively for Christmas – all gifts for all occasions come out of it – but it largely gets emptied in anticipation of December and built back up over the year.

In January, I sit down with my husband and list out all the occasions that will require a gift and we set a budget for each one. Add it up, plus a buffer for new friends and unexpected occasions, and that’s our gift savings goal for the year.

Keep Lists & Shop Sales

I also keep a running Excel sheet where I record gift ideas whenever they pop up. In July, my sister-in-law mentioned she’s been trying to find a good pair of headphones – on the list it goes.

This means I have time to watch for sales. Which leads me to my next secret:

Boxing Day sales. 


That’s the perfect time to buy those sort of generic (you know what I mean) gifts you get for acquaintances. I typically buy gifts for neighbours, the mailman, and those non-friend-but-gift-required coworkers between Christmas and New Years, and store them until the next Christmas. 75% off? Yes please.

So far, I’ve never actually been scooped by somebody buying for themselves what I planned to get them in the time between my buying it and Christmas actually coming. But if that’s the case, then I can come up with something new for those one or two people in October or November.

Set Limits

Another way is to set a dollar limit with family members.

Last year, between my husband, me, our siblings and our parents, we had four home purchases and an engagement, so we knew we’d all benefit from avoiding any overspending at the holidays.

We set a gift-value limit of $50, and the result was that everyone’s wallet was happier. What surprised us was that the gifts seemed to be even more thoughtful and meaningful, because we had to really think about what the person would truly enjoy rather than thinking of it in terms of financial value, like “well it’s worth $150, they’ll love it”.

More strategies! –>  Andrew, at Family Money Plan, recently suggested two equally awesome methods that you can avoid the bill shock this Christmas.

Any way you do it, saving for the holidays will mean you’ll be able to spend less time worrying about January’s bills and more time watching Jingle All the Way and singing along with Michael Buble’s Christmas album. Who doesn’t want that.



5 thoughts on “How to Avoid the Christmas Spending Binge

  1. Thanks for the shout out Kate! Love this post. Of course it’s hard to think of Christmas when it’s still summer but that’s exactly why you need to! Otherwise you get left with the scramble and the stress. Eck, no thanks, a little planning and you are all good to go. Great post!

  2. Thanks Andrew! I loved your post. I figured anyone who stumbled upon mine would be happy to come across yours too! And you’re right, as much as I love Christmas, I hate to wish away summer in favour of colder weather. But being stress-free when the holiday bills comes in definitely makes it worth it : ) Thanks for the comment!

  3. Love this post! I’m 21 and last year was my first ‘real’ Christmas where I bought presents for people! I started in September and was finished by November. I wrapped most of my gifts in October. I remember my Step-Dad seeing me and saying, you’re crazy. CRAZY MAYBE, BUT WHO WAS LAUGHING COME CHRISTMAS EVE? Not me! I was sleeping, while they all wrapped. It definitely pays to be prepared.

    I also think this applies so much more to people with part-time jobs that don’t earn ‘a lot.’ My friends are always broke come Christmas and it’s because they don’t prepare for the holiday season and last minute by. Love this post Kate, thanks for reminding me it’s time to start shopping again.

    1. Oh my gosh, I love this comment so much. First, because I feel like we’re basically Christmas-planning-soul-mates who can sleep peacefully while the haters wrap last minute haha. Second, such a great point about people with part-time jobs. If you have income coming in on a sporadic basis, or a smaller steady paycheque than those who can work full time, it definitely requires more planning or strategizing throughout the year, but nobody really talks about that when people start getting their first part time jobs. I know for me, I was just so excited to have money coming in that the thought of saving it for Christmas would never have crossed my mind. Happy shopping! ; )

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