These everyday holiday spending tips can help you not take too much debt into the new year.

3 minute read

American consumers will spend an average of nearly $1,000 ($997) on holiday shopping and seasonal events in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Nearly 180 million people in the U.S. already spent an average of $301 over the 2021 Thanksgiving and Black Friday holiday weekend, according to the NRF.

Holiday spending in 2021 is far from over, though. Along with buying toys, electronics, home decor and other top gifts, the holidays bring all kinds of extra expenses that may not be included in most people’s holiday budgets.

For example, travel to family gatherings, holiday entertainment, gifts to hosts of holiday parties, gas and takeout after a busy day of holiday shopping all add up to a big chunk of expenses beyond the holiday gift allowance most people have in mind.

The good news is that you can offset many of these expenses by cutting back in small ways during the holidays so you don’t rack up a bunch of credit card debt that will haunt you in 2022.

Here are 6 small changes you can make to save money over the holidays.

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1. Take your lunch to work

You may have spent less than $60 a week going out to lunch in the past if you hit the drive-thru every workday. Those days are mostly over, however, thanks to rising food prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prices at fast food and casual restaurants rose around 7% compared to 2021, and prices at full-service restaurants jumped nearly 6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today, people can easily spend $80 to $100 a week on lunch, especially if they dine with coworkers who insist on ordering appetizers and other items that increase the bill. Even if you love to go out to eat, if you make your lunch to take to work at least a few days a week, you can probably save at least $100 in December.

To save even more, plan your meals for the week and make a list before going to the grocery store. Grab the store circular on the way in to take advantage of sale items.

Find out: Even the Experts Fall Victim to Overspending on the Holidays

2. Avoid ATM and cash advance fees

You may not think much about paying a fee of $4 or more when you get money from an ATM that’s not owned by your bank. But if you hit ATMs frequently, those fees add up.

If you hit an out-of-network ATM 10 times a month, that’s around $50 you could have spent on groceries or other expenses. Plan ahead and go to your bank’s ATM to withdraw enough cash for the week to save money on unnecessary ATM fees.

Find out: How to Make a Holiday Budget

3. Take advantage of retailer price matching

If you’re not checking a retailer’s online price before paying for an item while shopping in the store, you’re missing out on savings. Many retailers will match their online price if it’s lower than the price charged at the store. Retailers with price match policies include Target, Walmart, Best Buy and many others.

Before you go shopping, check the price match policy for the store. Then look up items at the retailer’s website before hitting the checkout line.

Find out: Holiday Shopping Will be Boring This Year

4. Check out free holiday entertainment

It’s fun to go to holiday plays and other events that require purchasing a ticket, but the holidays also offer lots of free events. For example, you and your family or friends could load up on hot chocolate and drive or walk through elaborate holiday light displays. You could attend a tree-lighting ceremony. Watch for free outdoor holiday festivals or concerts, especially in warmer climates.

Find out: Don’t Get Wrapped Up in These Online Shopping Scams

5. Prepare more meals at home

You may love to get takeout after work, but you can save a lot of money by going home and making your own meals. The key to this money-saving tip is planning. Make a list before you hit the grocery store and try to stick to it. Plan your meals with ingredients you can use for more than one dinner.

To make this as easy as possible, spend a couple of hours over the weekend preparing a main dish like pot roast, soup, chicken or other meat. Then throw together a salad, some vegetables or another side dish. That way, you can just grab the prepared foods from the fridge after a long day at work.

Find out:

6. Trim down streaming services

If you subscribe to multiple streaming services, cancel or temporarily pause some of them to save money. It may be too late to save in December, but you can still avoid being charged for January.

Find out:

Why stop with the holidays?

Now that you know ways you can save money over the holidays, you can take your new money-saving ways into the new year to save every month in 2022. Then take the money you save and build up your emergency fund, pay off debt or save for a big purchase.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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