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It’s a great feeling when the halls are decked and you’re still on budget. Cut costs and limit unexpected expenses this holiday season with 12 days of fun holiday savings.

On the 1st day: Create a list and check it twice.

Gold rings and swans a swimming can add up quick. Use our to Holiday Savings Calculator create a budget. Set your spending limit as soon as possible so you can start saving a little bit each week and start researching the best deals. Add every expense to your budget from gifts to decorations to road trip gas. 

On the 2nd day: Advocate for your needs.

Be honest about your budget and whether you need to cut back. That’s ok. Loved ones understand 2020 has been a wild year. This season is more about spending time (or FaceTime) with each other. Voice your expectations and feel better about your budget by discussing your gift giving plans before exchanging presents.

“Holidays can tend to be out of control,” says Bright Dickson, Truist culture alignment and activation consultant. “Advocate for what your needs are around gift giving this holiday season. It’s a way of defining the space.” She also says to be mindful of urges to “stress spend.” “Think about what’s under that, and question it.”

On the 3rd day: Decorate efficiently.

Trim expensive holiday décor and installations from your budget by going DIY. Social distancing has given us more time at home, so make a weekend of getting crafty.

Use trimmings from your yard or gather pinecones to make a natural centerpiece; tie yarn balls into a circular pattern to create a textured wreath. Think about your light display, too, and twinkle efficiently. Opt for Energy Star–certified LED light strands, which last longer and use 70% less electricity than conventional bulbs. Slip on your mittens and hang lights yourself. Professional holiday light installation, depending on home size, can reach upward of $800.1

On the 4th day: Bah humbug to store credit cards.

You’re at the checkout and offered a one-time discount of 20% to open a store credit card. Savings are savings, right? This holiday, avoid opening multiple store credit cards. These cards can carry high interest rates, pricey fees, and are easy to abuse when the urge strikes to get just one more present.

Opening a new credit card can also take points off your credit score. Check your credit score before signing up. Your goal should be above 720. Leverage your good credit for more substantial debts like a mortgage, college, or business loan. Your S.O. can do without a pair of flannel pajamas.

On the 5th day: Make smart substitutions.

Is there anything better than holiday cookies? If cooking is a family tradition during the holidays, you’ll already be spending much of your budget on food. Instead of heading to the store when a key ingredient is missing, see what common household staples you can swap — like mixing milk with lemon juice for a quick buttermilk replacement.

Google, Pinterest, and your favorite food bloggers will have suggestions.  

On the 6th day: Shop stress free.

Stats from 2019 showed one in three holiday shoppers lost sleep worrying about how to pay for the winter holidays.2 Luckily, we have amazing tools at our disposal that can cut the anxiety of holiday shopping. Start by doing some research. Reference cost-comparison sites like and search for the retailer with the lowest price. Or find comparable gift alternatives, in case your first choice isn’t available.

And remember, not all discounts are created equal. Take advantage of genuine discounts, as some retailers inflate prices then mark down products to simulate a sale. How do you spot real savings? Free online shipping and percentages off your entire bill usually point to legitimate deals.

Lastly, avoid bundle up-sells. This can save you a ton at the end of the season. Instead of leaping at a bundle offer, be content with the gift you planned on. You know the saying: quality over quantity.  

Want another way to feel good? Buy gifts at small businesses this year.

On the 7th day: Host with the most.

Some of us live for holiday hosting. By the time the bar is stocked and charcuterie board designed, you might be hit with spender’s remorse. Do I really need eight types of fancy cheese? Enjoy your holiday party by buddying up with a co-host. Splitting costs and responsibility will give you much-needed savings and calm. Keep the guest list to a minimum in accordance with social distancing guidelines, which also helps cut expenses.

Another holiday dinner tip is to host a seasonal potluck. Create the atmosphere for a smaller amount of friends and family to gather, and let everyone pitch in. If you’ve been invited to a potluck, bring a dish you’re comfortable spending on. Yes, corndog sushi is a thing, and people love it.

On the 8th day: Be present.

“Studies show that time spent with people is more important than money spent,” says Brian Ford, Truist head of financial wellness. Save presents for the kids and give the adults in your life your uninterrupted presence. 

Play games, build snowmen, volunteer together. Be close if you can.

On the 9th day: Gift-list with a twist.

Cross casual acquaintances off your holiday gift list and focus on core family members and close friends. If that list is still too long for your budget, propose a holiday gift exchange. Draw names from a hat, like Secret Santa, and give one meaningful present to one person. Plan to exchange gifts over mulled wine and coco, in person or virtually.

On the 10th day: Personalize presents.

Thoughtful gifts, like a framed photo, can create more lasting memories than store-bought expensive items. Did you develop a new skill or hobby in 2020? “Everyone in my life this year will be getting a fairly bad painting I made,” laughs Dickson. “I’ve been doing it all quarantine.”

Another approach is to give special ornaments. Ford says, “We give ornaments to each other — but it needs to be an ornament that is meaningful to the person. Typically they don’t cost more than $20.”

On the 11th day: Consider other ways to give.

Do something (or a few things!) for someone else during the holiday season. And it doesn’t have to involve money. Small gestures like writing a letter to a veteran, dropping off dog treats at a local animal shelter, or simply giving someone a compliment goes a long way.

If you do want to spend, give to a cause that is close to your heart or — even better — close to home. Being an active part of making your community better is sure to inspire cheer.

On the 12th day: Treat yourself responsibly.

Give yourself one nice present. Consider if you’ll use, cherish, or remember the present come February or March. It’s a good practice to treat yourself, but staying on budget and protecting your net worth may be sweet enough.


For more tips from Dickson and Ford, subscribe to their podcast, DIY Happiness.

1How Much Does Professional Christmas Light Installation Cost?” October 13, 2020.
261% of Americans Are Dreading the Holidays Due to Spending” Lending Tree, December 2, 2019. 
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