5 tips for creating (and sticking to) a holiday budget

September 26, 2022

Bring your joy level up and your stress level down with these money management tools.

Before you create a budget for your holiday spending make sure you’ve created an overall budget for you and your family. Having something written down (on paper or online) can go a long way to helping ease your concerns about overspending, especially during the holidays when other stresses may come into play.

A good place to start when creating a holiday budget is with your mobile banking app. On the go banking lets you check your balance before you make a purchase (you can also set alerts to let you know when your account gets below a certain amount.) Plus, you can use it to pay bills, deposit checks, and the digital wallet is very helpful during the holidays when you want to split the cost of a gift or a meal out with friends.

Now that you have a good tool in place to help you spend wisely, here’s how to create a budget:

1. Set a spending limit: Be realistic and only spend what you can afford. If possible, try to spend from your available savings rather than borrowing. If you haven’t set aside money for this year, consider getting an early start for next year. You can create a separate savings account just for your holiday budget. Even setting aside a few dollars every month can help..

If you don’t have a dedicated holiday account, then think about other sources of money. Maybe your company will give a holiday or year-end bonus? You might also consider ways to adjust your spending by cutting back on household and personal items. For example, maybe you splurge for a pumpkin spice latte once a week instead of daily? 

2. List what you plan to buy and how much you plan to spend: A good starting point is to look at what you spent last year. Try to be as specific as possible with your list, assigning a dollar figure to everything. It’s also helpful to assign a priority to items (low, medium and high) so that if you need to cut back you know where to start. And make sure to include a line item for “other” expenses that may come up unexpectedly. 

3. Make adjustments: If you do find your expenses are greater than your available funds, it’s time to get creative. The first step is to cut back where you can on the lower priority items. You can also turn to DIY projects for gift giving and be creative with wrapping; throw a potluck instead of a catered dinner; and drive to meet up with family instead of flying or renting a car.

If your budget is still out of whack, consider ways to raise funds like selling items that you no longer use, taking a seasonal job; or earning money by renting out a room in your house or your RV. 

4. Keep track of your spending: This is where your app can really come into play. Use your digital banking tool, like Money Tracker in the U.S. Bank Mobile App, to monitor your spending so you don't blow your budget. It’s super easy to use and can be especially helpful while you’re waiting in line for the next available cashier. You can also set up notifications and alerts if your balance gets to a certain point or if you’re spending too much in one category.

Other tactics include using prepaid cards or cash instead of credit or debit cards to help you stick to your limit. But if you do use a credit card, consider using a cash-back or rewards card that gives you the best perks for holiday shopping.

Another great way to stay on track is to work with a friend as your budget buddy. For example, you might ask if you can check in with them before making an online purchase to give yourself a cooling off period. 

5. Enjoy your time with friends and family: Finally, make sure to enjoy yourself. The holidays are a time to focus on friends, family and a bright future. If you were able to stick to your budget, congratulations. But don’t get down on yourself if you struggled at bit. Instead use it as a learning opportunity. If you overspent in one area, then you can tweak your budget for next year. If you blew your budget completely, you can get help by speaking with your banker about paying down your debt and how to save more money ahead of time for next year.


The U.S. Bank Mobile App can help you view all your accounts in one place. The app and the U.S. Bank Smart Assistant ™ are available in the language you prefer. Just open the app menu, select settings and go to Language to choose English or Español.

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