For most people, Thanksgiving is a chance to relax and appreciate what we’ve been given. This special time spent with family and friends is bound to get you thinking about the chance to give some holiday gifts of your own.

Generosity is the key that unlocks our full potential—in our life and in our money. But before you go out in search of those perfect gifts, be aware that the retailers have a plan for you. With a wave of holiday sales and carefully crafted ads, they intend to claim the lion’s share of their annual revenue between now and the new year. You’ll need a game plan of your own to be sure you don’t rack up a year’s worth of regret in one Black Friday.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Don’t Do Debt

Don’t let the lure of the mall sidetrack you from long-term money goals. No matter how much you may want to play Santa, charging a trunk-load of presents on a credit card is not a winning money move.

Save up for the big holiday sales instead, and treat that fund the same way you would a paycheck. Make a list of all the people you want to buy gifts for and the amount you plan to spend on each person. Once your gift-giving budget hits zero, that’s it. No more spending on gifts!

Planning your holiday spending this way means you won’t have to worry about a financial holiday hangover when January rolls around!

Get Creative

If you can’t fit a lot of holiday shopping into your budget, get creative with your gifts. If you’re crafty, use your skills to make something useful or beautiful. Love to cook? No family in the world would turn down a homemade meal during the busy holiday season. Maybe you’re handy around the house. Offer your services as a gift to a friend who doesn’t know a hammer from a hole in the wall.

Get your kids in on the act too. Encourage your children to make art for their family members. It’s a great chance to show them that thrifty gift-giving can be thoughtful and full of personality.


No matter the size of your budget, when it comes time to stroll the mall or scroll the web, keep in mind some of the clever tactics retailers have in store for you:

  • Advertising: The average consumer is hit with more than 3,000 commercial messages daily. That’s nearly 100,000 ads from Thanksgiving to Christmas! So keep your gift-giving budget close by to remind you what you really want to spend your money on.
  • Salespeople: When you hit the malls, you’re going to meet salespeople with commissions on their minds. There’s nothing wrong with that. But remember, their job is to make sales, not necessarily to ensure you get a great gift at the best price.
  • Product Positioning: From the use of color to eye-level placement on shelves and the way items are stacked, marketers plan the positioning of their products down to the last detail. They pour as much thought and effort into this as you devote to your budget. Don’t let their clever campaigns distract you from the one item you entered the store to buy.

If you follow a budget, get creative, and resist impulsive buying, you can enjoy a holiday season filled with fun and guilt-free giving.

Going Deeper

SmartDollar is a free financial wellness program available to any household in the SPS Family of Companies. If you haven’t enrolled yet but want to, click here to get started. Already have an account? Click here to log in and freshen up as you head into the holiday season!

This article was originally published on SmartDollar: