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Spend less, savor more this holiday season

By Lisa Lakey

For the U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Overspending doesn't equate to meaningful holiday 
  • Be like Santa: Make a list and check it twice 

(450 words)

mother and daughter baking cookies
Focusing on family traditions is a great way to alleviate holiday stress and turn attention to what truly matters during the holidays.

LITTLE ROCK -- According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend an average of more than $930 each this holiday season, up nearly 4 percent from 2015. With dazzling displays and Christmas lists a mile long, it can be easy to splurge this time of year. However, a meaningful, memorable holiday doesn’t have to be one that breaks the bank.

“Pressure to overspend can increase during the holidays,” said Laura Hendrix, an associate professor of family and consumer economics for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Consumers sometimes focus on buying gifts as a way to build special holiday memories. However, family traditions and rituals are the foundation of most people’s cherished memories of holidays past.”

As the holidays draw near, planning can go a long way for reducing stress and avoiding overspending. Hendrix gives a few pointers on keeping the holidays meaningful without racking up debt.

  • Take a page from Santa, make a list and check it twice! – When making your list, Hendrix said to be as honest as possible on what you can spend. “Include any costs for gift giving to family, friends and colleagues, travel, food or entertainment that might be associated,” she said. 
  • Set a spending limit – “Add up the sum of your holiday list, and don’t be shy about negotiating it down some more,” Hendrix said. “Start early with your family to stay focused on the joy of the season and minimize the ‘stuff’ focus.”

 Hendrix also notes that gifts don’t have to be pricey and elaborate. Hendrix’s said her children’s favorite part of gift-giving was the stocking. “They loved the Christmas stocking,” she said. These were always stuffed full of a variety of items – small gifts and toys, some candy, a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.”

  • Focus on family traditions – “If you haven’t established any family traditions, it’s not too late,” she said. “We always loved baking and decorating cookies. We decorated the tree together as a family. I liked to plan something special to do in the days after Christmas to help keep the focus on fun and fellowship instead of the season culminating with the gift-giving day.”

For more information about consumer spending, visit or contact your county extension office.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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