Here's how to stop the cost of Christmas from burning a big hole in your wallet

Here's how to stop the cost of Christmas from burning a big hole in your wallet
Gift-giving can seriously damage your finances at Christmas.Getty Images
  • A recession looks likely to hit the US next year – and it could squeeze both incomes and employment.
  • With Americans predicted to spend nearly $1,000 each on gifts, Christmas is coming at a bad time.

The holiday period is all about catching up with friends and family, giving and receiving gifts, and eating and drinking too much – but it can also be a minefield for your wallet.

A Gallup poll published in October suggested US households will spend an average of $932 on gifts alone. Add to that increased travel and socializing, and you could be putting yourself in financial peril at the worst possible time.

As the likelihood of a recession mounts, you might be worrying about the state of your finances when the new year arrives.

Insider spoke with four personal finance experts who shared some tips to help you feel more secure when the credit card bills land.

Stick to a budget

It's vital to budget appropriately for the holidays. Travis Forman of Harbourfront Wealth said high inflation and rising interest rates was already forcing people to move from being "impulse buyers to plan buyers". That shouldn't change at Christmas, he said.


Cameron Huddleston, a family finance expert with Carefull, a service built to protect aging adults' daily finances, said she often sees people making lists of gifts without having an idea what it's going to cost.

"In addition to having that list of gifts, you need to have a budget of how much you can afford to spend, not how much you want to spend, in cash rather than relying on credit cards," she said.

If you have to use credit cards, our experts suggest opting for those with the best cashback options.

Call a gift amnesty

Gift-giving is one of the costliest aspects of this time of year.

"Don't go into debt over your Christmas shopping," said Andrew Doerman of Legal and General America. "The holiday season in general is more about the experience and memories than it is about the stuff."


Organising a family Secret Santa, which imposes a price limit on gifts, could be an option, Huddleston said.

Steve Chen, founder of Call to Leap, a coaching platform for trading, investing and financial planning, suggested White Elephant, which turns gifting into a game that means each person only had to buy one gift.

Chen added that Black Friday deals aren't necessarily the place to find a bargain, with discounts often not what they seem.

Push gift-giving back a few days

If you want to carry on gifting, but aren't committed to tradition, you could try gifting in January. Most retailers run sales after Christmas Day, the experts said, and it can be a great way to get more for your money.

"You can find a lot of deals – stores have excess inventory from all those things that didn't sell before Christmas, so they're going to be marked down," Huddleston said.


Cut unnecessary expenses

If you're committed to going all-out on festivities, you can at least try to make savings elsewhere.

Some subscriptions are less necessary than others in the holiday period, while temporary lifestyle changes, like making your own lunch or working from home more, could free up enough cash for a couple of gifts or dinner with friends.

If you're travelling home for the holidays, Doerman said try to drive if possible, particularly as Christmas air fares are 39% higher than last year.

Chen suggests traveling light to avoid extra baggage fees could help cut costs if you do have to fly.

Other options include having friends over rather than going out for meals or drinks. Huddleston suggested getting each guest to bring a dish or bottle to share costs.


Seasonal side-hustles

There's always more demand for workers in the holiday season.

An Indeed Hiring Lab report from October found interest in holiday jobs was a third higher than last year, with retail still the most popular sector.

If you haven't got time to spare, there are other ways to pick up more income with a quirky, seasonal side-hustle.

Some that are in demand in December include setting up a decorating business, gift consulting, and pet or house-sitting while people visit relatives. Renting your car out on Turo is another way to add a bit more income too.

Affiliate marketing could also be fertile ground as brands boost marketing spend in a bid to stand out.