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4 Tips for a More Merry, Stress-Free Holiday Shopping Season

Less Worry, More Merry

The holiday season is right around the corner, a time for festivities, cheer, and reunions with family and friends. But as we deck the halls or spin the dreidel, many of us will have something else on our mind: money. In fact, more than three out of four Americans overspend during the holiday season, with the average household adding nearly $1,000 in debt. While it may seem like a fact of life, going into gift-purchase debt is not inevitable. We’ll offer four key tips to stress-free holiday spending, allowing you to devote yourself to some worry-free celebrating.

  1. Make a Budget

    A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 1.5% of your annual income on holiday expenses. If you earn $65,000 a year, for example, your holiday budget should top out at $975. Once you’ve established your maximum, you can then make a list of potential spending- gifts, food, entertainment, travel - and see what might need to be modified or cut.

    To prevent yourself from scrambling to save right before the holidays, it’s a good idea to establish a holiday fund ahead of time. For instance, if you start at the beginning of the year and tuck away 10% of your budget each month, you’ll roll into the holidays with the money you need and a spending limit to keep you in check.

    Need to brush up on your budgeting skills? We’ve got you covered with our budgeting module.

  2. Be Smart with Credit

    When used wisely, credit cards can be your friend. Many cards offer special offers like rewards points, leveraging your everyday purchases to bring that perfect gift within reach. With purchase protection, you’ll be protected for losses in a way you may not be if you pay in cash. One thing you should make sure you do with credit cards if pay the balance due in full and on time every single month.

    To understand the ins and outs of credit cards, check out our short interactive video.

  3. Know Your Limits

    If your finances don’t allow you to buy everyone on your list a gift, be honest with yourself about it. There are plenty of other ways to show people that you care: by spending time with them, sharing a plate of cookies or treats, making your own gifts, or choosing a small, personalized present instead of a larger, expensive one. Another popular idea is getting everyone in your circle of family or friends to draw one name to give a gift to, with the recipient having to guess who their gift-giver was.

    Set up emergency savings to help cover any unforeseen events such as a trip to the hospital or a broken heater in the middle of winter. Having this fund will make sure all the money you saved for gifts and family fun can still be used for its purpose. 

  4. Secure Your Information

    With each passing year, more holiday shoppers opt to avoid the lines and crowds by purchasing their gifts online. But however convenient and comfortable, online shopping is not risk-free: according to a study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 16.7 million US customers were the victims of identity fraud in 2017, with a total of $16.8 billion stole. Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to protect your information, such as monitoring your accounts, securing your devices, and placing security freezes on your credit reports. It is important that if you are the victim of identity theft that you respond rapidly.

    Learn how to keep your data safe with our short identity protection video.


In today’s world, holiday stress might feel as American as apple pie – but it doesn’t have to! With a budget, a holiday spending fund, smart use of credit, honest limits, and protected information, you can make your holiday season more joyful. To find out more about stress-free holiday shopping and about smart finances in general, check out our online financial educational program.

This article was developed as part of CCU’s partnership with EVERFI, Inc.