Did you know that, according to a December 2020 Magnify Monday Survey, shoppers who incurred holiday debt borrowed $1,381 on average?

Whether your holiday list is full of toys for the kids or something special for that special someone, don’t let holiday shopping break your budget, take over your savings, or worse – put you in debt.

Follow these tips for saving for the holidays and learn some creative ways to save money on holiday gifts so you can come out of the holiday season with just as much cheer as you entered with!


1. Set a Spending Limit

Before you set foot in a store or click “add to cart” online, it is important to first know your budget. Set a spending limit for yourself so you know the amount not to go over when doing all your holiday shopping.

For tips on creating a budget for the holidays, check out Habitat’s Financial Education Center and create a personalized “Creating a Budget” playlist to learn:

  • How to identify income streams and expenses.
  • Ways to classify and “bucket” expenses that highlight needs and wants.
  • How to create a budget by taking an inventory of income and expenses.
  • How to apply these strategies to monitor and keep to your budget.

2. Shop with a List

WARNING: This sounds simple, but with sales and advertisements plastered everywhere you look, this tip can be the hardest to follow through on! Start by writing down all the people you plan to shop for, events you plan on hosting, and decorations you’d like to purchase. Then write down how much you plan to spend on each. (TIP: Do not forget hidden costs like postage for holiday cards and packages, and remember to factor coaches, teachers, and service providers into your gift-giving!) Make sure to be as realistic as possible at this step – if you want to buy your kids a $1,000 PlayStation, then you may want to reconsider that $300 KitchenAid for your partner.

3. Track Your Spending

Track your holiday spending regularly. When checking names off your list, write down the total you spent on them. Save receipts and regularly add up your expenses to make sure you are staying on track. The earlier you find out you went over budget, the easier it will be to re-adjust and get back on track.

4. Don’t Be Scared to Adjust

Do not panic if you’re tracking your spending and you realize you went over budget. Just take a look at other expenses you can cut back on to make up for the difference!

Looking for more great tips? Check out our Financial Education Webinar: Budgeting for the Holidays, live on November 9 at 6 p.m., or the recorded version we’ll post afterward on our webinar’s YouTube Playlist.


Not all gifts need to come with a big price tag attached. In fact, some of the best gifts are those without one! Here are some money-saving gift ideas:

1. Gift Your Time

Maybe it’s cooking a meal for your partner, volunteering with your kids at a non-profit of their choosing (hint: like spending time completing these family-friendly Habitat activities), spending the day with your parents at a park, or calling a grandparent. However you give your time, it can be one of the most memorable gifts you can give because it comes from the heart.

At Habitat, we see how our volunteers giving their time impacts the lives of others. It’s not just because they are spending their time helping with homework or building homes, but their gift of time shows others – our partner families, communities, and even other volunteers – that they are cared for. That alone can change a life.

2. Write a Personal Note

Just as the gift of time shows someone you care, gifting your family and friends a personal note tells someone you care. Write a personal note of gratitude for that person on a blank card or on the back of a photo of the two of you, and gift them your words of appreciation for the holidays.

If you want to add a little something to accompany your note, consider framing a photo, a recipe card with a dish that makes you think of them, or make a holiday donation to a charity close to their heart such as giving to Habitat for Humanity in honor of them. No matter the size of your tribute donation, you’ll make a big difference in their name, and we’ll email them your message to notify them of your generosity.

3. Get Crafty!

Not all gifts can be found in a store or even online. One of the greatest ways to save on holiday shopping is to turn it into holiday DIY-ing! Get instructions on how to make personalized holiday gifts on sites like Pinterest, Etsy, or even our very own ReStore.

Our final tip for spreading holiday cheer without breaking the bank is to remember that you’re not alone! If holiday shopping feels out of reach or just overwhelming, contact one of our Housing Counselors and set up a one-on-one appointment to help you feel confident entering the holiday season!

Don’t let the title fool you – our HUD-Certified Housing Counselors know that achieving the dream of stable housing starts with a stable financial foundation. Habitat’s Housing and Financial Counseling Program has helped thousands of individuals create a budget, stick to a savings plan, and achieve financial wellness, for financial goals from reducing debt to homeownership and beyond. See how we can help you achieve your financial goals!


About the Author

Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley

As an independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley believes in a world where everyone has a decent place to live. We create opportunities for families to transform their lives, gaining the strength, stability, and self-reliance they need to build a better future. Working together as a community, we build homes with affordable mortgages, repair and renovate existing homes, counsel first-time homebuyers, and revitalize neighborhoods in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties. For more information, please call 866.450.4432.


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