I’m Not Buying Gifts This Year. How I’m Avoiding the Holiday Sales

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A few weeks ago, my husband and I were reflecting on everything that our family has been through this year, and what changes we’ll be facing next year, including a big move to a new city. When the topic of the holidays came up, I made a bold proposal for saving money: “What if we don’t give each other presents this year?” 

He breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m so happy you said that.”

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Our decision to not exchange presents this year will help us stay focused on padding our emergency fund as inflation hovers above 7% year-over-year and interest rates keep increasing. We’re putting what we’d typically spend on gifts into a high-yield savings account, and we’ve opened a second account to save for our move, which we know will be costly. 

And we’re not completely alone in our approach to spending less this holiday season, especially with looming recession fears. Household finances have taken a hit, with families having less disposable income and higher credit card balances, which could slow holiday sales. Roughly half of shoppers in a recent survey say they plan to buy fewer things due to higher prices, and more than one-third say they will rely on coupons to cut down on costs. 

Meanwhile, retailers seem desperate to get consumers to spend as much as possible this holiday season. Many of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals I saw have been around since before Halloween and aren’t really deals at all. Jeremy Schneider, personal finance expert and founder of the Personal Finance Club, explained it best in a recent Instagram post using a TV as an example. Schneider said a $199 TV on Amazon has a list price of $349 crossed out — but the same TV has cost $199 since September. Not only is it not on sale, but even if the “real price” were $349, you’re not getting $150 in free money. You’re still losing $199, he says.

“Sales aren’t an act of charity by corporations looking for your best interest,” Schneider writes. “They’re a game companies play to get you to spend more money.”

It’s easy to feel the compulsion to buy things over the holidays that you or others don’t really need. Here are a few tricks I’m using to avoid the flashy sales:

  • Set expectations early on: My husband and I already had the “talk” with our friends and family, so they know we’re not doing gifts this year to prioritize our finances.
  • Keep a money diary: I’m keeping a detailed diary of every money decision I make during the holiday season to hold myself accountable. It’ll help me understand what areas I need to improve on and what I’m already doing well, as well as help me figure out my spending triggers. 
  • Automate my savings plan: I wanted to make my life easier while saving, so I removed any friction that would get in the way. For me, that meant automating my savings. Every time I get paid, 15% of my paycheck automatically goes into my savings. 
  • Put the credit cards away: I’ve put all my credit cards away in a drawer to avoid the temptation to use them. Out of sight, out of mind. 
  • Accept that I’ll make mistakes along the way: Not all my decisions will be perfect. I could crack under the holiday pressure if I see a good sale and buy something. If that happens, I’m prepared to give myself some grace.

The Bottom Line

Reexamine your financial priorities this holiday season. If gift-giving is adding financial anxiety to an already overwhelming year, make a new plan.