A 6-Step Process to Start Saving for the Holidays Early

The holidays are meant to be a joyous time of year spent celebrating with friends and family. But as many of us know all too well, the gift-giving and travel that often accompany the holiday season can also bring significant financial stress — and debt. In fact, according to a recent LendingTree survey, 36% of Americans accrued some sort of debt over the 2021 holiday season, with the average amount exceeding $1,200.

But by doing some careful advance planning and sticking to a savings strategy, you can ensure that added debt is not among the surprises under the tree this holiday season. To prepare for the extra year-end expenses and get your finances ready for the “most wonderful time of the year,” consider these six tactics for avoiding new debt as a result of the 2022 holiday season:

  1. Estimate your holiday expenses — To get an idea of how much the holidays are likely to cost you, start by making a list of all the friends and family members you plan to buy gifts for. If you don’t yet know what you’ll be getting each gift recipient on the list, go ahead and assign a dollar amount that you expect you’ll spend on each. And to ensure that you’ve accounted for taxes and shipping charges, overestimate each allotted amount a bit.
    Next, add in any other anticipated holiday expenses that you’ll need to account for. Will you be traveling for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas? And will you be hosting for either? Will you mail out Christmas cards this year? Do you plan to give a holiday tip to your mail carrier and any other service providers? Add in estimated dollar amounts associated with these and other upcoming holiday-season costs to calculate a ballpark total for your holiday spending.
  2. Build a budget — Once you’ve come up with an estimate for your total holiday-related spending, do the math to figure out how much cash you’ll need to put away each month between your savings-start date and the holiday-spending season to build up the required amount in savings. Once you have that amount calculated, weigh it against your current budget so that you can figure out how to make room in the budget for the holiday savings. For many people, good parts of the monthly budget to pull from include their entertainment and discretionary-spending allotments, but your own budget may present additional opportunities.
  3. Start saving early — Obviously, the sooner you start the saving process, the longer you’ll have to put the money away — and the less you’ll have to set aside each month. To simplify the process of saving, it may be helpful to open a separate savings account dedicated specifically to your holiday savings. This way, you can easily transfer the needed amount of cash to this account each month (or each payday), and it will be safely stored away and ready to access when the holiday spending season gets started. And in many cases, the savings can even earn interest while sitting unused.
  4. Look for opportunities to cut costs — Starting the process early can also provide you with another considerable financial advantage, as it gives you more time to be on the lookout for deals on gifts, as well as for other ways to cut holiday costs. For gifts, Black Friday and Cyber Monday typically present a range of savings opportunities. And to help you make the most of these, websites like blackfriday.com and theblackfriday.com often offer sneak peeks at major retailers’ doorbuster items, which tend to deliver the biggest savings. Further, popular coupon sites like retailmenot.com and couponcabin.com can provide codes and coupons that help reduce the price of gifts. And when you’re making online purchases, browser extensions like Honey and Rakuten can reduce the deal-finding legwork by automatically searching the web for coupons and promo codes, then allowing you to apply them to your cart instantly.
  5. Think outside the box — With some creative thinking, you can come up with ways to let your holiday spirit shine while lowering the financial burden for everyone. For example, consider organizing a gift exchange with a group of friends and/or family members in which each participating gift-giver is allotted just one other participating gift-giver to purchase a gift for. Each participant gets a gift, while each gift-giver has to buy only one gift, rather than separate gifts all around. (This might even allow you to dial up the budget on the single gift you’re responsible for and still save money, since you have so many fewer gifts to buy.) Of course, this may not be a popular plan for the children in the group — so if your group would prefer, the kids can still get gifts from everyone, while the grown-ups participate in the more limited gift exchange.
  6. Stick to the plan — Of course, the steps above aren’t nearly as effective if you don’t stick to the plan you’ve created. Do your best to stick to the budget you’ve built for each gift recipient on your list — and when you’re able to find deals on certain gifts, feel free to give yourself some added price-limit flexibility elsewhere. Overall, set a total spending limit for your holiday-related purchases, and do your best to stay under it. Keep in mind that if you can get to year’s end without busting your holiday-season budget, you can ring in 2023 without any added debt!

Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

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AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.