Planning Holiday Spending Now to Avoid Debt

Monday, November 21, 2022

Most Americans start their holiday shopping by October 31. Depending on which source you consider, the average American household spends somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 on the holidays — a figure that includes gifts, food, outfits, events, and dining out.

With higher inflation this year, it’s a good time to start thinking about holiday spending decisions to avoid stress caused from overspending, said Shannon Doyle, financial education program manager for LSS Financial Counseling, a service of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

“Having a well-thought-out plan for gifts and holiday spending, especially now as we experience higher prices in the marketplace, is the best way to ensure peace of mind and avoid a financial holiday headache later on,” Doyle said.
Doyle recommends the following strategies to plan for financial wellbeing during the holidays:

Make a List

Write down gift ideas for each person – including how much to spend. “However, don’t stop with gifts!” Doyle said. “Consider all the things one typically spends money on during the holidays and start estimating those expenses.” That includes food, beverages, dining out, decorations, new outfits, concert or event tickets, and any other typical costs for those celebrations.

Divvy It Up

Have a plan for covering holiday spending without going into debt. Here’s how to start: Determine the number of paychecks you’ll receive until the holidays and divide estimated holiday expenses among paychecks. If you will have 10 paychecks until the holidays and expect to spend $1,000 on holiday expenses, you’ll need to save $100 each paycheck to cover your expenses. 

Check That List (Twice)

If you determine that the cost is too high per paycheck for holiday spending, determine an amount that you can afford to put aside. Then, go back to the holiday spending list and choose which expenses to cut. “This is not easy,” Doyle said. “It might mean giving up traditions, reducing what one typically spends on gifts, giving gifts to fewer people or giving fewer gifts overall. Maybe it means not travelling over the holidays. Determine your priorities.”

Watch Out for Scrooge!

Despite the best laid plan, holiday revelers might end up with some holiday debt. “It happens to the best of us,” Doyle said. “It’s easy to get caught up with the excitement and thrill of the season.” LSS Financial Counseling offers a Scrooge-O-Meter to help individuals see how much that debt will cost.

LSS financial counselors are also available to offer free, personalized support to those who need help budgeting, or determining the best way to pay down debt from last year or ongoing credit card debt.

LSS Financial Counseling’s Budget and Debt Management Counseling Services are available free of charge. For an appointment call 888.577.2227 or visit

LSS Financial Counseling offer confidential, nonjudgmental support through financial counseling and education — equipping people to reach their goals and achieve financial wellness. Services include budget and debt counseling, debt management plans, free credit report reviews, student loan counseling, homebuyer services, foreclosure prevention and more! To schedule an appointment, call 888.577.2227 or visit