Thanksgiving is within a drumstick’s reach and before you know it, we’ll be ringing in the New Year. With the holiday season upon us, it’s important to make a plan for all the expenses that come along with the festivities.

According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers expect to spend an average of $935.58 during the 2016 holidays (up $139.61 over last year); and nearly 6 in 10 of us will buy something for ourselves. When you consider the cost of hosting holiday get-togethers, buying gifts for others, as well as a little something for yourself, the overall bill can add-up quickly. Make sure you remain disciplined to avoid overspending so you can start 2017 on the positive side of the ledger.

Start with a Plan

Create a budget. First, outline all the expenses you anticipate in celebrating the holidays. It’s important to identify the costs of gifts and entertaining as well as any travel expenses that may be incurred. If the total is higher than you can afford, you will need to prioritize and then cut back in those areas that you choose to keep your overall spending in line. The amount dedicated to gift purchases becomes your limit as your shopping begins.

Make a list. Next, jot down the people on your gift list. Disperse your gift budget among this list. When you have the limit for each person, consider gift ideas that will fit within this gift budget and write those ideas on the list as well.

Research. Consider researching online for the gifts on your list to find the best pricing. You can also map out the store locations to make shopping as quick and painless as possible. You might find that you can buy most gifts online. If you go this route, make sure you don’t overpay for shipping; understand the return policy; and ensure that the item can be delivered on time.

Keep track. Once a gift is purchased, cross it off your list and move on to the next. Compare what you spent versus what you budgeted to ensure you are in line with your plan.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

It’s always a good idea to take advantage of sales when knocking out your gift list. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known as "big sale" days and, for that reason, have become popular with shoppers.

Did you know that the term "Black Friday" has a football connection? Per our research, the phrase was used by the Philadelphia police department in the 1950’s. The officers used it to describe their long hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving as fans of Army and Navy football would come into town for the huge rival game on Saturday. Stores in the area would offer big sales to entice the influx of visitors to shop. Eventually, the term was adopted in the 1980’s to describe the biggest bargain shopping day of the year.

The term Cyber Monday was established as consumers turned to the Internet to continue their shopping online on the Monday following Black Friday. Note: Don’t use your employer’s computer to do your shopping! Such activities can be tracked and are generally prohibited by company policy.  Best to do your Internet shopping from home!

Which Day is Better?

It depends on what type of shopping experience you prefer. Black Friday tends to be better for those who like the in-store experience of seeing, feeling and touching items before buying. On the other hand, Cyber Monday provides the convenience of shopping from your home in your PJ’s with a cup of coffee by your side. Internet shopping tends to work well when purchasing brands you know as well as books, music, and other items that have no variation between vendors.

What’s On Sale?

Quite a few retailers advertise their Black Friday discounts far in advance of the big day, but not all. If you want a one-stop glance at advertised and "leaked" deals, visit the following websites that are at the top of Forbes best Black Friday sources:


Retailers participating in Cyber Monday don’t typically advertise for fear of taking attention away from their Black Friday deals. You will need to visit their websites directly to determine their discounts for Monday.


Make sure that the thrill of a bargain doesn’t interfere with your holiday budget. Keep your list in–hand and stick to your spending plan. If you don’t, you may have financial regret after the New Year!

Contributions were made to this article by Kathy Hower, CFP, a Wealth Advisor at Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc.

Elaine E. Bedel, CFP, is CEO and president of Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. She is a featured guest each Wednesday on the WTHR (NBC, Indianapolis) Channel 13 News at Noon, "Your Money" segment.  Elaine’s book, "Advice You Never Asked For… But wished you had," is available on For more information, visit or email Elaine at

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