USAA Tips: Ways to keep holiday spending in control

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

We all love to get gifts and many of us love to give gifts even more. Staying on an effective budget, satisfying our holiday obligations, and making sure we give gifts that others value are all the joys and challenges of the holidays.

The following six tips are a guide to how you can spend to your budget and keep everyone happy.

Give Gifts That Are Financially Equal.

Keeping holiday shopping in control can be solved with simple math: take the amount available and divide it by the number of people. A $500 budget divided by 25 friends and family is $20 per person. This type of discipline is the only way to stay on budget. Make your rules and discipline resolute. Besides, paying a credit card bill for Christmas gifts in June when you want to have a family vacation will be frustrating.

Put Holiday Budget on One Gift Card.

A single gift card with your holiday budget on it makes you disciplined because once the card is spent then that is it. Do not make a false argument about credit card points. A few hundred more travel miles does not equal being a few hundred dollars over on your holiday budget.

Know Precisely What People Want.

Taking some time to sit down, ponder, and discuss each person's gift is a great way to discover a meaningful gift and save money. If we discover a gift that is sitting on the store shelf, then we are allowing the retailer to decide what we should get that person instead of allowing us to decide what gift truly fits that person's interests best.

Schedule a Get-Together Instead of a Gift.

Often times, the best holiday gift is a get-together and not a gift. We see a lot of friends and family around the holidays, but how often do we see them in March? Finding time for those closest to us outside of the holidays is a great way to carry on the spirit of the holidays and emphasize the importance of family and friends after the holidays. Simple ideas like a BBQ, a potluck, or just a few hours with several families and their kids at a local park can build lifelong memories instead of a bigger credit card bill.

Find a Universal Gift.

Finding a special gift from a local craftsperson that you can buy several of is a great way to provide a very meaningful gift that can be used for several people and still keep your budget. Items such as mugs, picture frames, a photo of a local landmark, or a pound of coffee are all ways that small gifts go a long way to reinforce and support local, small businesses, keep your budget, and deliver holiday cheer.

Try the Used Kids Store.

Kids are very hard to buy gifts for, but you can find amazing items for kids at local gently used stores. Purchases at these stores limit your risk of buying a bad gift and they allow you to really stretch your holiday budget.

Holiday shopping on a budget is hard, but it is far from impossible.