A Budget-Friendly Approach to Holiday Gifts

Kate Stuzin, Managing Editor

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend, on average, $997.73 each holiday season on gifts and other expenses. Being in high school, some students have no disposable income, and even if they do, the majority of that money goes towards their family’s expenses. Additionally, the overall rise in inflation these past few months has made gift-giving pricier than ever before.

To enjoy the gift-giving season and bring your personal spending below the national average, you must create a holiday budget. However, while finding the perfect gift on a budget may sound stressful, the following tips can help counter that stress and help you spend less:

1. Organize a Gift-Giving Budget

Taking a look at how much you spent last year and comparing it to whether it resulted in extra debt can give you an idea of what you should spend this year. Then, go through how much money you have to spend this year. Set a firm number based on your past experience and current financial situation. Do not exceed this number! 

2. Create a Gift List

Figure out the number of people for whom you want to buy gifts. Do you want to give gifts to only immediate family, maybe a few close friends or only buy gifts for events you plan on attending? Whatever you decide on, stick to those specific people so you do not risk overspending. Divide your total budget by this set number of people and write down each gift you buy or plan on buying underneath their name. Websites like Tiller or Excel spreadsheets can help you create an organized list and track expenses. 

3. Download the Honey Browser Extension

Honey — created in conjunction with PayPal — compares prices between Amazon and other online retailers, factoring in shipping costs and coupons to find the best deal. You can download the browser extension on either Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Edge. Once downloaded, navigate a product page and simply click the “h” icon on the top right corner of your computer screen. A drop-down list will appear showing the product’s price history, as well as available coupons for the product. 

4. Give Homemade Gifts

They may take more time and energy than buying a gift at the store, but homemade gifts show that you put in some extra thought for the receiver without breaking the bank. If needed, you can also create a subcategory in your budget for gift-making supplies to keep track of your purchases. The DIY route may require some extra materials, so it is best to buy in bulk. You can print out a bunch of photos to make a cute scrapbook or buy many blank tote bags to personalize for your friends and family. The possibilities are endless!

5. Participate in a Gift Exchange

Recognizing that most high schoolers are probably in the same situation, suggest a gift exchange so you and your friends do not have to buy separate gifts for each other. Gift exchanges, such as Secret Santa or White Elephant, can make gift-giving cheaper and save shopping time since you will only shop for one gift. You can make an event out of the gift exchange and bring hot cocoa, gingerbread cookies, peppermint bark and other winter treats to celebrate the holidays.