How Much Should I Budget for the Holidays?

This season of decking the halls is certainly shaping up to be completely different from anything we could have imagined 12 months ago. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting everything from how we travel to how we budget for the holidays.

In more normal times, the typical advice is that you should spend no more than 1% of your annual salary on holiday gifts and travel. That means that if you earn $50,000 per year, you should plan to spend about $500. Ideally, you save up for this cost well in advance, putting aside a small amount every month until you reach your goal.

CNBC Select spoke to Mint financial planner, Brittney Castro, CFP, about whether that number should go up or down this holiday season. Here’s her advice.

This year is an opportunity to be honest

While this time of year is full of fun traditions, the holidays are also typically associated with rising stress levels. It can be overwhelming and sometimes expensive, as we race to plan and prepare the perfect holiday. And it’s no surprise that last year the average person planned to spend $1,048 on holiday-related expenses, according to the National Retail Federation.

But this year allows us to change how we approach the season, with more families opting to connect via Zoom or FaceTime in order to curb the spread of coronavirus. Castro argues that now is the perfect time to be honest with yourself and loved ones about what is realistic.

“This year, especially, be real about what the number really is that you can afford,” Castro says. “You don’t have to buy for every person.”

That’s not to say you shouldn’t give gifts or find ways to travel safely. But remove the pressure to overspend, says Castro: “Getting into debt to pay for gifts is not necessary. I think more people are coming to that realization.”

Consider low-cost gifts and quality time

As you let go of some of the pressure to dazzle family members with the perfect gift or travel across the country to see your relatives, consider what kind of holiday experiences would bring you cheer and delight.

“Go on a hike,” says Castro. “Send [loved ones] a sweet note or a phone call and check in and see how they’re doing. It’s more about being able to be with each other and express your love.”

Another good way to make the season meaningful is to make a donation to an organization that you or your friends and family care about rather than giving gifts. Or consider doing your shopping at local small businesses instead of major retailers so you know your dollars are giving back to the community.

“Maybe you decide that you want to support local businesses or people in your family and friends circle who are struggling,” says Castro. “There are so many creative ways to think about it.”

Use your budget as a barometer

It’s hard to find a magic number to spend on the holidays that works

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Sephora’s Bestselling Gifts Have Something For Every Beauty Budget

For beauty lovers, shopping at Sephora is akin to being a kid in a candy store. Dash in the magic of the holiday season — the glitter, the glitz, the glam! — and it’s a recipe for serious cart-stopping material. While the beauty retailer is synonymous with the best in luxury brands, you’d be pleased to hear that this year’s giftable assortment offers a little something for every price point. But, don’t just take our word for it: Sephora has an entire section devoted to what people are shopping right here, right now.

With the finest of fine-tooth combs, we parsed through all these beauty bestsellers to bring you the goods we’re betting big on this year (along with the ones that are already starting to sell out!). There’s everything from skincare-routines-in-a-box that get you the most bang for your buck to limited-edition gift sets drenched in holiday drama and beyond.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission. 

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

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Christmas shopping budget essential says money expert

With most people faced with tighter-than-normal finances this holiday season because of the dramatic 2020, a financial expert is urging holiday shoppers to make a budget before spending cash or using a credit card.

“Creating a budget now is the best way to make sure we don’t overspend for the holidays,” says Bank of America’s Tracey Ousterbeck-Waller.

With a majority of people shopping online and more doing so because of the pandemic, Ousterbeck-Waller says an advantage is price checking.

“A lot more people are shopping online rather than going into the stores and I think what’s really great about that is price checking,” she said, adding that shopping online allows quick comparison of prices for the same or similar items from different retailers.

Related to checking prices, is keeping within your budget Ousterbeck-Waller said.

“When you create that budget, set a spending limit; create a dollar amount and that way you can stick to it,” she advised.

Shopping late in the season can also cause blow a hole in budget planning, she said.

“If you wait until Christmas Eve, how many of us have done that in the past,” she said. “We go out and we start shopping and the gift we normally would have bought for somebody, they are already sold out, so you might end up picking the next best thing, but you might end up spending more.”

She advises getting started now by setting a dollar limit and sticking to it.

Even if not a Bank of America customer, she advised checking out Bank of America’s Better Money Habits website, to get access to tools for budgeting and holiday shopping.

Contact Carrier Roper at [email protected]

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Trying to budget your holiday shopping? New study crunches the numbers for your North Texas city

With holiday shopping set to take place in the middle of a pandemic and associated economic crisis, how much should you be spending?

Personal finance website WalletHub crunched the numbers to come up with a maximum amount residents of various cities across the country should spend.

The study found encouraging news for local communities. Four North Texas cities landed in the nation’s top 75 cities for the maximum residents should spend while holiday shopping — all with limits of more than $1,490 per person.

To determine the maximum, WalletHub’s algorithm took into account income, age, debt-to-income ratio and how much income and savings residents have in relation to their monthly expenses.

However, the site warns that the maximum budget applies only if the consumer is in a comfortable financial position, has at least six months of emergency expenses saved and a debt-to-income ratio smaller than 22% for a renter or 43% for a homeowner.

Kess Eshun, of Frisco, competes in the Holiday Baking Championship, Season 7.

Among Collin County cities, Richardson leads with a maximum holiday shopping budget of $2,003 and national ranking of 36th out of 570 cities. Only one other city in North Texas ranked higher than Richardson: Flower Mound, with a second-place ranking and a maximum holiday shopping budget of $2,973.

See where other North Texas cities ranked in the table below. If you want more personal details about how much to spend, you can use the calculator on WalletHub’s website.

City Ranking Budget
Flower Mound 2 $2,973
Richardson 36 $2,003
Frisco 53 $1,684
Plano 59 $1,594
Carrollton 71 $1,492
North Richland Hills 95 $1,303
Allen 123 $1,164
Irving 128 $1,142
Lewisville 131 $1,124
Denton 133 $1,111
Garland 140 $1,071
Arlington 147 $1,054
Mesquite 154 $1,035
McKinney 163 $1,001
Grand Prairie 297 $733
Fort Worth 306 $718
Dallas 399 $596

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Fresh Beauty Holiday Gift Sets For Every Budget at Sephora

Shopping on a budget can be a challenge, but we’ve partnered with Sephora to show you how Fresh is making it so much easier. No matter your spending limit, there’s a gift for you.

Unless you have a disposable income, you’re probably in the midst of strategizing a way to shop for all of your friends and family this holiday season without spending outside of your budget. And we get it: When it comes to beauty gifts, you can quickly reach your spending limit on just a few products. Luckily, Fresh is here to help with a variety of gift sets that range from affordable stocking stuffers to splurge-worthy sets for one special person.

If that doesn’t already get you excited to fill your basket, Sephora is prepared to sweeten the deal. Starting Oct. 30, Sephora Rewards members can receive major discounts on their holiday hauls for a limited time. All three tiers — Insider, VIB, and Rouge — will get 10, 15, and 20 percent off their purchases, respectively, if they shop during the Holiday Savings Event, which ends Nov. 9. All they have to do is enter the code “holidayfun” at checkout, and the discount will be applied. Shopping on a budget has never been so easy; you might actually score enough deals to treat yourself to a gift or two.

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RHOC’s Elizabeth Lyn Vargas Monthly Clothing Budget Details

Each and every detail that Elizabeth Lyn Vargas shares about her life is more shocking than the last. The Real Housewives of Orange County newcomer has been opening up about her fabulously luxe life, including some rather juicy particulars about how she scored all the fabulous fashion that fills her stunning closet. The digital music exec joined fellow RHOC cast member Gina Kirschenheiter on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and this lover of luxury didn’t hold back. 

“Elizabeth, you had to keep your lips zipped when asked about your wealthy ex-husband. But there’s no gag order stopping you from unzipping your purse,” Andy began. “So I have a round of questions about the lifestyle your marriage afforded you with… Viva Liz Vargas.” 

“What’s the most cash you’ve ever had in your wallet?” he began, and already we were hooked. Elizabeth nonchalantly answered, “Most cash I’ve ever had in wallet… $250,000.”

“What do you estimate your monthly clothing budget was when you were married?” Andy asked on behalf of all of the viewing public. To which Elizabeth assuredly responded, “Oh, uh easily around $20,000-$30,000.” 

Want more The Real Housewives of Orange County? New episodes air every Wednesday at 9/8c or catch up on this season through the Bravo app.

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How to Do Your Holiday Shopping on a Budget

Don’t let holiday costs ruin your holiday spirit.

The holiday season can always leave your budget feeling uncomfortably tight. This year, the season feels even more foreboding than normal thanks to COVID-19. But that doesn’t change the fact that gifts still need buying. Here are a few smart shopping tips you can leverage to get everything on your list without taking on holiday debt.

Starting early gives you more time to shop around for the items on your list. You can compare prices at multiple stores to see which offers the best value. You might even catch some sales — deals that could vanish into thin air as we approach the traditional holiday shopping season.

Also, sometimes, in-demand items sell out as it gets close to the holidays. Starting early gives you better odds of actually finding what you need. If you wait until the holidays are almost upon you, it might be tougher to find everything on your list. And the few stores that still have what you want? Well, they may charge extra — just because they can.

2. Take advantage of sales

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are usually the first holiday sales to come to most people’s minds. But they’re not the only big holiday sales. Stores can run sales at any time between now and the gift-giving holidays. You just have to watch for them.

Keep an eye out for ads about upcoming sales. Also, consider subscribing to your favorite stores’ email newsletters. These can help you stay in the loop about current and upcoming promotions. As a bonus, the store may slip a few extra coupons your way.

3. Use coupons

Store newsletters are one place to find coupons, but you can also find them by doing a quick internet search. To save time when shopping online, consider a browser plug-in that automatically tests out all coupon codes for a given site. That way you don’t have to try them all manually.

4. Use credit card rewards

Check your credit card statements or online accounts for unused credit card points. Often, you can turn these into cash or gift cards. You can use that cash (or those gift cards) to buy your items — or give it as a gift itself.

Using a rewards credit card to make your holiday purchases can help you rack up even more rewards, which you can put toward future purchases. Just make sure you don’t charge more to your card than you can afford to pay back at the end of the month or you’ll end up with costly debt.

5. Use layaway

Some popular retailers allow you to put items on layaway. To do this, you go to the store, fill your cart with all the things you want to buy, and then take it to the layaway department. Rather than paying for it all at once, you pay in regular installments. Once you’ve paid for the full amount, you return to the layaway department and pick

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Between Covid, climate change and the budget, no wonder many women are rethinking having babies

In July in a speech to the National Press Club, treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged Australian women to have more babies. He was lighthearted about it (well, he can be, of course, it isn’t his body or financial future that will bear the brunt or the baby). “I won’t go as far as to say, like Peter Costello, one for the mother, one for the father and one for the country. But I can say people should feel encouraged about the future, and the more children we have across the country, together with migration, we will build our population growth and that will be good for the economy.”

a hand holding a baby: Photograph: Gajus/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Gajus/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

A new baby boom may well be good for the economy, but the question increasingly being asked by women of child-bearing age is whether it will be good for either them or for the children they may give birth to. Dr Ginni Mansberg, a GP in the Sydney suburb of Sans Souci, has noticed an interesting trend at her practice this year. “I’ve had patients who had stopped taking the pill to get pregnant coming back in for another script telling me ‘now’s not the right time.’” And the statistics back her observation to the hilt.

Related: I don’t want children but being an aunt is the joy of my life | Lara Holmes

Australia’s current birthrate is 12.561 births per 1,000 people, that’s down by 1.25% from last year. The year before, the birth rate declined by 1.23%. For the decade between 2008 and 2019, birth rates also declined but at a much slower rate. 2008 was the last time birth rates declined by above 1% and that was the year of the GFC, of course. It appears women also vote with their fertility, and when times get tough they decide – quite understandably as Mansberg’s patients put it – that it’s not a good idea to reproduce.

Frankly, who can blame them? All of us agree that 2020 has been the year from hell and 2019 was not much better, certainly not for Australia. After a horrific drought that made even rainforests vulnerable to fire, we spent much of the last summer choking on bushfire smoke even if we lived in the inner city. And in January, the Australian Medical Association included pregnant women in the list of people vulnerable to adverse health effects from that smoke. All but the most fervent climate change denialists know that despite this year’s rain, we will face mega blazes again and soon. Not to mention floods, droughts, dust storms, cyclones and all the other “big weather” that global warming is bringing our way. And younger people tend to both accept the science of climate change and understand that they are the ones whose future will be blighted by it. Why would they want to bring another generation into the world as long as the generation currently in power, including Frydenberg, stubbornly refuses to

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The best 2020 iPhone models for every user and budget

This week, Apple finally announced its long-awaited iPhone 12 — and there were plenty of surprises in store for Apple fans. For starters, the iPhone 12 isn’t one phone but several, with four unique models available to pre-order in the coming weeks.

Want to see all of the new features and upgrades found in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro? Tap or click here to see everything Apple announced during its iPhone 12 event.

Now that you know your options, are you ready to settle on a new iPhone? If not, don’t worry — we’re breaking down each iPhone 12 model to find the best device for every budget. Believe it or not, you don’t need to break the bank to get a phone you’ll love.

Apple’s latest and greatest: The iPhone 12 series

At Apple’s iPhone event, the company announced four separate iPhone 12 models for users to pick from. Each one has different benefits and drawbacks in terms of speed, size and power — so make sure to choose a phone that fits your needs and lifestyle.

A word of advice: Apple revealed it would no longer include EarPods and charging adapters with new iPhone models. This means you need to factor in the cost of headphones and a USB-C adapter when you go to purchase your phone. If you already have either of these, you won’t need to buy another unless you want to.

A stacked view of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini in the blue aluminum finish.
Source: Apple Newsroom

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 is the standard-bearer of the new product line and features an all-new aluminum-edged design in five colors (blue, green, red, white and black). The OLED screen comes in at 6.1-inches, and the rear glass is protected by a durable ceramic coating. It also includes the new A14 Bionic chip, 5G capabilities, a dual-lens 12-megapixel camera and 17-hour battery life.

The iPhone 12 starts at $799 for the 64GB model and costs $100 more for upgraded storage.

iPhone 12 Mini

The iPhone 12 Mini features a smaller screen than the basic iPhone 12, but it’s not skimping on any tech. It has the same exact guts — including the OLED screen, camera, chip, 5G antenna and ceramic coating — but in a smaller package at just 5.4-inches. And because the phone is smaller, the battery life is slightly less at 15 hours.

The iPhone 12 Mini starts at $699 for the 64GB model and costs $100 more for upgraded storage.

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Source: Apple Newsroom

iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone 12 Pro is the second most expensive phone in the lineup and includes a better camera than the basic iPhone 12 and 12 Mini. The camera includes LiDAR, which is a special laser technology that scans your surroundings for depth and distance. The result is clearer, better-defined photos in low light. The stainless steel body comes in four colors (blue, grey, gold and white).

The iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999 for the 128GB model and costs $100 more for upgraded storage.

iPhone 12 Pro

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Budget Stretcher – Unusual Strategies For Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Many people bust their butts in the gym but when it comes to making the right food choices or getting enough of the good stuff, they simply fail.

FACT: The average grocery bill has risen 5.7% in just 2 years since 2007.

I’m going to give you some budget stretcher tips and tricks so you can shop like a pro when you are bodybuilding on a budget. You’ll save money and get more food for your dollar. This is even more important for you skinny guys and gals that need to eat and just can’t seem to keep the cupboards stocked with enough food.

Sit tight and take notes.

Budget Stretcher Foods to Buy:



Bulk frozen individual packs, or just get them with the skin and bone. Skin them yourself. It doesn’t take too much time and you save quite a bit on the whole package. A whole chicken is a good option as you can BBQ it and carve it up for the rest of the week. Grilling all your chicken in advance is a super simple way to to have 1-2 chicken breasts a day without adding to your cooking time.


In water.


Turkey burger or lean ground turkey. Adds well to pasta dishes.

Lean Red Cuts of Meat:

Get to know your local butcher if you can. Sometimes they can package a smaller cut if you’d like or run the cheaper, tougher cuts through a tenderizer at your request. Some stores do markdowns to get rid of meats that are closer to expiration. It might be possible to ask them when they time is so you can schedule your shopping at the markdown times. You can check the “sell by date” and if it’s today, ask if they will mark it down for you.


Eggs (Omega 3 if possible)






100% Whole Wheat bread

Oatmeal (not the quick oats)

Cream of Wheat

Brown Rice

Whole Grain Pasta (watch out for mixed sources, you want the whole grain version)








Sweet Potato

Salad Fixings (lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, hickima, etc)







Before You Go On The Budget Stretcher Trip:

* Take a list. Don’t start your grocery shopping trip off without a clear cut idea of what it is you want to purchase. Far too many times I’ve gone to the store and loaded up on chicken only to discover I had plenty of frozen breasts and I was completely out of brown rice and oats. Developing a list of foods you need to replenish weekly will aid in saving money on excess foods and keep you from buying impulse items you didn’t need.

I’m going to say this is probably the MOST IMPORTANT tip on this list. Going to the gym with a plan is the surefire way to make progress. It is the same with grocery shopping. Knowing what you need for the week will save you …

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