Navigating Holiday Expenses in an Unpredictable Financial Climate


The past few years have been a whirlwind of financial uncertainty, leaving many of us hesitant to spend our hard-earned savings. This scarcity mindset is understandable given the volatility of the financial markets, with headlines about a looming recession further fueling the urge to hoard cash. So, how does a family navigate the holiday spending scene amidst this uncertainty?

Deep-rooted cultural norms push us to splurge on loved ones and indulge during the holidays. In fact, holiday spending has reached record levels in 2023, surpassing even past Black Friday records1. In a culture where everyone seems to be acquiring the latest gadgets or booking extravagant vacation rentals, keeping up with the Joneses can feel like an impossible task.

With spending on the rise, concerns about liquidity persisting, and the cost of gifts increasing, middle-class shoppers are left wondering what to do. For many families, credit cards seem like the answer. While it’s tempting to overindulge in the spirit of the season, it’s crucial to be mindful of the financial consequences. With the Federal Reserve raising rates over the past year, compound interest, the “interest on interest,” only worsens the situation. Over time, the accumulated interest on a credit card balance can snowball, making it increasingly difficult to pay off the debt.

It’s not too late to adjust during this holiday shopping season. Here are some tips to help you manage your holiday spending:

Set a budget and stick to it. Even if you’ve already started shopping, determine how much you can afford to spend on holiday gifts. Create a list of gift recipients and set a spending limit for each person.

Pay off your holiday debt as soon as possible. The sooner you repay your debt, the less interest you’ll accrue.

Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday shopping frenzy and feel pressured to spend more than you can afford. Remember, the holidays are about more than just gifts.

Looking ahead to 2024, instead of reacting to problems like credit card debt, proactively take steps to have the cash available when the holiday season rolls around again. Start a sinking fund and dedicate your savings to this specific purpose. Unlike a traditional savings account, which can become a dumping ground for miscellaneous expenses, a sinking fund is laser-focused on a specific goal. By setting aside a manageable amount each month, you’ll have the funds ready to shop with intention without breaking the bank.

While starting a savings account may not be the most novel idea, the challenge lies in taking action. Here is your sign to get started. If you’re reviewing your transactions and see that credit card interest is rising, take a few minutes now to set up a holiday savings fund.

Even better, open a high-yield savings account and take advantage of compound interest. That’s right, the same mechanism that can snowball debt can also be an ace up your sleeve.

A high-yield savings account can be a valuable tool for managing expenses and breaking the cycle of holiday debt. These accounts offer significantly higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, allowing your money to grow faster. By opening a high-yield savings account early in the year and consistently contributing throughout the year, you can accumulate funds specifically set aside for holiday expenses. Starting your planning process early means you can spread out your expenses over a longer period, reducing the financial burden during the holiday season itself.

Remember, financial planning is not about deprivation; it’s about empowerment. By taking control of your finances, you can create a less stressful holiday experience for yourself and the important people in your life. If you want to learn more about how financial planning can help you get clear on your priorities, get in touch.

Sources: Picciotto, Rebecca. “Black Friday Shoppers Spent a Record $9.8 Billion in U.S. Online Sales, up 7.5% from Last Year.” CNBC, CNBC, 25 Nov. 2023,

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