4 Tips to Make Holiday Spending Less Stressful

This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.

Josh and I have been all over the place when it comes to where we’ve stood financially. In the past, we’ve had more than we needed, and we’ve gone through some times that were really tight! I remember once feeling like I needed to hide the potato chips I bought at the grocery store because I didn’t want Josh to think I was splurging.

Now, we’re somewhere in between those two points. When we got married, Josh inherited my student loan debt and we’ve been working towards paying it off regularly every month. Last year, we decided that we really wanted up our intensity when it came to paying off our student loans. So we packed up what we had, sold the things we didn’t need, and moved in with Josh’s parents at the end of last summer. They have a very large, gorgeous home in Washington State and we’re blessed to be able to live with them and throw more of what we have at the loans to get them paid off faster!

But putting a larger focus on putting any money we had in excess at my loans made us really buckle down and take a hard look at our finances. First of all, we had to see where our money was going. If we were spending too much in one area, we could cut spending there and budget more towards loans!

Creating a budget was so useful for us! Once we kept track of where our money was going, we were able to rein it in and spend it with much more intentionality!

Which is exactly what we hope to do this upcoming holiday season. Since we’re focusing hard on saving and paying off loans, we’re going to need to be really intentional about how much we spend on gifts, hosting, and being generous this year! Seeing kids play with fun new toys or giving your sister the bag she’s been wanting for weeks- of course, it’s going to make you happy! But it’s important to not get carried away when it comes to gift-giving and generosity. As much as being generous is a good thing, it should really come from the surplus of what you have and not something you go into debt for!

These are a few of the things we’re trying this year along with a couple others we’ve done in the past to keep our spending in check when it comes to holiday shopping and generosity!

1 | Set a budget per person

Pretty simple, right? First, you’ll need to figure out how much total you want to spend on holiday gift-giving. Then, divide that number between the people you have to shop for. Of course, you might want to spend more on, say, your parents than your 3-month-old niece (I mean, is she really going to remember what you got her?) and that’s ok! Just be sure that the total adds up to the same number you determined at the beginning of your budgeting. If it helps, try listing a goal dollar amount next to each person so you know how much you’re spending on who. Just make sure no one else finds the list or you’ll have a Ross and Rachel problem on your hands…

2 | Give group gifts

Buying an individual gift for every family member and friend can get pricey! Why not combine the gifts into one group gift or activity that many people can enjoy together. Board games, wine, a family portrait, or a family-focused gift card can be a great gift!

Sponsoring a family activity can also be a great gift to give that may very well be less expensive than buying individual gifts. In the past, Josh and I have created movie theater baskets for our families. We bought tickets for each person and filled a basket with candy they could bring as a snack.

3 | Assign gift buddies

Josh and I did this with our family last year since several of us were trying to save money at the time. At Thanksgiving, we each wrote our name on a piece of paper, wrote a few gift ideas down, and put it in a bowl (we had the option to combine ourselves as a couple or throw our name in individually). Then, whoever name you chose out of the hat was the person you would buy a Christmas gift for! Our guideline was to spend about $200 since it would be the only gift we were buying someone that Christmas. We still bought individual gifts for the kids but we all loved the game as adults because we ended up getting a few things each that we really wanted and giving gifts didn’t break the bank! 

4 | Set aside a little each month

Like I said, budgeting is so important. In order for you to better be able to spend your money the way you want, you need to know where it’s going! For a long time, Josh and I would just buy things here or there and live paycheck to paycheck when we both knew that we probably didn’t have to live that way! But taking a close look at our finances and reining in spending where we didn’t need to be, it helped us free up money that we could use elsewhere! By taking that money and setting a little aside each month, saving for holiday spending is no longer stressful, but fun!

I’ve loved using the SunTrust Budgeting worksheet that has a special holiday budgeting section! It helps us take into account things that we might not normally think to plan for like travel expenses, holiday events, childcare, gift giving, and all the details in between! It even has a fun gifting guide that helps you keep track of the people on your list, how much you plan to spend per person (and then how much you actually spent), and what the total comes to in the end! It really covers all the bases when it comes to holiday spending and helps us to shop guilt-free because we’re in full control of our finances!

Download the SunTrust Budgeting worksheet for free and start planning your holiday spending today!


This post was sponsored, and paid for, by SunTrust. All opinions are my own.


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    Aditya Tiwari

    if I ever thought of a trip, I will make sure I follow each of your step as I am not a traveller. I do not like to travel, all the time. these tips are insanely amazing, but I don’t think I am open for gifting.


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    Monidipa Dutta

    Once you are married these ideas are truly helpful. Though I am single but I still always believe in setting a budget. That really helps a lot.


    Some really good and simple tips here that anyone can put in to practice. It’s really encouraging to read the example too! Hope you get those student debts paid off soon, you are certainly doing the right thing.

    Laura Dove

    Great tips! We always set a daily budget so we know that should we over spend one day we need to rein it back on another. we always save more than we need too just incase.

    Elizabeth O

    This is such a helpful article indeed. Sometimes the most stressful thing about holidaying is how much you will spend while there. You gave some really great advice!

    Dalene Ekirapa

    Holiday spending can be so awesome and stressful at the same time. We always await the experience and what better way to get ready for holiday spending than actually starting to save up early? As well, It’s always nice to set a budget per person to minimize spending and make it much easier.


    We’ve started spending intentionally too because we are saving for a house. I’d love to get better with making the budget.


    We do the secret santa thing here too, it makes it so much easier. We buy for the kids and then I think it’s a $100 limit for the adults. Makes it more affordable and a lot easier for sure!!


    Holiday is something we always want and spending money is always with it. you have such very nice tips on how to budget without stress.

    Vaibhav Mehta

    Like the fact that the joy of giving is being discussed in a way. Not married yet but can relate to the tips


    As a student i can Relate to not having enough money to splurg on gifts. These tips are really useful and fun! ThAnks for sharing 🙂

    Jennifer Prince

    These are great ways to reduce stress, and honestly, the time to start IS now for sure. It’s good to start planning early!

    melissa major

    These are some very helpful tips here. Setting a budget is a massive help for going on holiday

    Susana Parker

    Those pictures are truly beautiful.
    I can see them already in a magazine.
    you have a wonderful family
    thanks for the useful tips!


    The holidays can definitely be stressful, but your tips are great! Will for sure be putting some of them to use!

    David Elliott

    I can see how doing gift buddies would make things less stressful. And I get trying out the individual budget thing. Maybe the family would pay attention. It would be nice if they did.

    Blair Villanueva

    What a lovely ideas you have! Nowadays, it is wise to know how to save in many ways, and only splurge on important things and needs.