Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • November 2017
Written by 

Rethinking holiday shopping strategies

Many people begin holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, go all out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, then continue shopping at a slightly less feverish pace for several more weeks. Searching for the perfect gift and great deals can be fun or stressful depending on how you approach it.

To make holiday shopping more satisfying, plan to give gifts that delight the receiver without breaking your budget. Here are some holiday shopping tips, plus a few suggestions on ways to enjoy the holidays.

To avoid post-holiday blues from ugly credit card bills and depleted bank accounts, set a limit on the total amount of money you want to spend on everything for the holidays. Then, determine how much you will spend in each of these categories:

  • Gifts, cash gifts and gift cards
  • Donations
  • Special meals, food and beverages
  • Decorations, cards, wrapping paper and postage/shipping

List all gifts and the spending limit on each person or gift. If you are buying clothes, write down the sizes so you minimize post-holiday gift returns.

Shop smart

If you don’t like fighting massive crowds, avoid in-person shopping during peak shopping hours. Mix in some online shopping. Comparison shop before you buy. Keep your shopping list with you. Check off gifts or names as you work through your list. If you find something wonderful that’s better than your original gift idea, go ahead and buy that instead. Be flexible on gifts, but stick to your target spending amount for each person.

Many people make better shopping choices, and stick to a spending limit more effectively, when they carry and use cash. So, try using cash or debit for all your bricks and mortar shopping, saving your credit cards for online shopping.

Set firm limits for your credit card spending and stick to them. Write down every credit card purchase, so you know how much you are spending.

Declare victory when you’re done

When you have bought something for everyone on your list, stop shopping. Congratulate yourself because you found some great deals! Declare this shopping season a success and move on to planning meals and activities with family or friends.

To make it easier to stop shopping, talk with your friends and family before the holidays. Set comfortable spending limits on gifts for each other, so that gift giving is not a burden for anyone.

While it’s fun to give and receive gifts, there are other rewarding ways to celebrate the holidays

  • Invite people to join you for a holiday meal
  • Ring a bell for the Salvation Army
  • Donate to St. Joe’s Food Pantry, Goodwill or another local charity
  • Help someone with holiday decorations or baking
  • Share a favorite play or performance
  • Surprise a friend with an encouraging gift

What do you enjoy most about the holidays? What are some of your fondest memories? Don’t feel that you must spend a gazillion dollars to show you care. Spend your time, money and energy doing what matters most to you. 


Alan Prahl

Alan Prahl is the Education Leader with FISC, the Financial Information & Service Center. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and law degree from Hamline University. A nonprofit program of Goodwill NCW, FISC provides financial counseling and coaching, including a no-cost, no obligation 30-minute consultation with the “counselor on call.” To learn more, call 920-886-1000 or visit

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