From Black Friday to Christmas, staying within budget is a challenge.
While more than half of consumers start out with the best intentions, they don't all stick to it, according to the recent Merry Money Holiday Spending survey by TD Bank.
Nearly 8 in 10 shoppers, or 78 percent, overspend on holiday purchases — with the average shopper overspending by $215.
Too often it's because they've splurged on the perfect holiday gift, even if it's above their price limit, the survey found. Small impulse purchases like stocking stuffers and buying gifts for themselves are also to blame, not to mention all of the incidentals like wrapping paper and gift cards.
About 43 percent of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford over the holidays, down slightly from last year, according to a separate report from SunTrust Banks. For parents of young children, the pressure is even greater, SunTrust said.
"Give yourself a little wiggle room during the season," said Lauren Greutman, a savings expert and founder of the personal finance site LaurenGreutman.com. "If you overspend in one area, look for an opportunity to shave off expenses in another."
Greutman recommends shopping online with coupon codes and using a debit card as well as a banking or budgeting app on your phone to stay in line.
A debit card is a great way to avoid overspending, said James Capolongo, head of deposit products, pricing and fee income for TD Bank. "Do the best you can to manage within the funds you have available," he said.
More than half, or 55 percent, of those surveyed said used debit cards for holiday purchases although they were more likely to switch to credit for big-ticket items.
But that's a holiday hangover that can kick in later. In fact, it will take 73 months to pay off a $1,000 credit-card balance if you are making only the minimum payments, while racking up $840 in interest fees, according to CreditCards.com (assuming the average annual interest rate of 23 percent).
"If you put it on a credit card, it comes down to having a plan and using a thoughtful approach to what your repayment strategy will be," Capolongo said.
In the battle of the sexes, women outspend men on gifts for family and friends, while men outspend women on their pets, co-workers and themselves, the report said.
When broken down by generation, millennials spend less overall during the holidays, averaging about $515, than boomers, who average $530, and Gen Xers, who spend $589. And not coincidentally, millennials are also more likely than their older counterparts to stick to their budgets and to regift.