Gifts for the holidays: How to plan, shop wisely this season amid inflation

The average family celebrating the winter holidays this year will spend nearly $900 on gifts, decorations, food and other key seasonal items, according to the National Retail Federation's latest consumer survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The $875 in projected holiday spending is $42 more than consumers planned to spend in 2022 — and it's in line with the average holiday budget over the last five years, the organization said in an Oct. 19 press release.

Interestingly, "early sales may sway consumers to shop even earlier," said Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper Insights, in the same release.


"This year, seven in 10 holiday shoppers say they are considering taking advantage of October sales events to pick up holiday gifts, décor and other items on their list," the group also said.

In a further breakdown, the NRF estimated that holiday shoppers will spend $620 on gifts and $255 on seasonal items including decorations, candy and food. 

The survey also showed that 36% of holiday shoppers will cut back in other areas to cover holiday items — while 30% are purchasing gifts for fewer people this season amid inflationary pressures.

With so many Americans already focused on holiday gift shopping and planning, experts from Ramsey Solutions, based in Tennessee, shared insights and advice with FOX Business this week on how Americans can and should spend thoughtfully — and practice financial common sense.

‘Make a list’

"First, decide how much you can spend. Ask yourself: How much can I afford to save between now and Christmas?" said Rachel Cruze, personal finance and budgeting expert and a two-time No. 1 bestselling author. 

Cruze is also host of "The Rachel Cruze Show."

Added Cruze, "Make a list of the people you want to buy presents for (don’t forget parties and travel), and include a dollar amount next to each name and category."


Christmas gifts under tree (Credit: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Then, she said, "subtract those numbers from the total you’re planning to save — and if you ended up with zero, you have perfected the Christmas budget."

She also told FOX Business that after that, create a "holiday budget inventory."

Cruze added, "Find budget lines you can tweak, like subscriptions and manicures, then ask: What holiday traditions can I skip? Maybe it's ‘Elf on the Shelf’ or fancy Christmas card photos."


Consumers, she said, "can quickly cut down on the costs of gifts by skipping all the gift exchanges."

She emphasized, "The most important thing at Christmas is to remember the importance of contentment. It’s OK to have nice things — but don’t let those nice things have you."

RELATED: Survey: Holiday shoppers to spend more on gifts this year – here’s what they plan to buy

While "it's so easy to get swept up in the holiday madness, remember, the things that matter to you most probably don’t have a price tag," said Cruze, who is the author of "I'm Glad for What I Have," a new illustrated children's book from Ramsey Press.

‘Face reality’

Jade Warshaw, personal finance expert and a co-host of "The Ramsey Show," told FOX Business via email, "This is the time of year that people are stressed out, and they overspend."

She also said, "While everyone else is doing the most, give yourself permission to do the least."

Instead, said Warshaw, "This year we are facing reality: The reality is this has been a hard year, financially, for a lot of people with inflation and student loan [repayments] coming back — and credit card debt keeps climbing."

So — "'tis the season to practice the words, ‘No,’ or, ‘Not this year,’ with your kids and family members."

Ramsey Solutions' Jade Warshaw discusses the 'student loan crisis' and why the government should not be bailing people out on 'The Bottom Line.'

Added Warshaw, "Instead of ending the year deeper in debt, it's worth it to end the year strong by giving yourself the gift of freedom." 

On this last point, she speaks with deeply personal knowledge.

She and her husband paid off over $460,000 in debt — and ever since, she's been coaching others on how to pay off their own debt by "shifting their mindset, beliefs and actions around money."

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