Anxious about holiday shopping? Try spending only $100.

This is the season when spending is celebrated.

It’s the season of giving, but it can be unforgiving. Expectations are high for you to demonstrate you care by packaging your love in a pretty box or gift bag.

I get asked all the time how to pull back during the holidays when money is tight or a job situation is tenuous.

Federal workers have been living under the threat of a shutdown for weeks — as have those whose businesses and income are tied to a functioning government. Even if a shutdown is averted, the relief is only temporary because our highly divided Congress all but ensures there will be a next time.

Despite the waning inflation, companies are still shedding jobs. Last month, LinkedIn announced it would lay off 668 employees, or about 3 percent of its staff. This month, Nextdoor, a neighborhood network company, announced it was cutting 25 percent of its workforce, while automaker Stellantis said it would offer buyout or early retirement packages to about 6,400 nonunion U.S. salaried employees. My employer has offered buyouts to trim 10 percent of its staff.

Income insecurity is real in America.

These federal workers can’t escape the threat of a government shutdown

Yet, there’s so much pressure to give in to the commercialism of the holidays.

Do you know why we have trouble thinking of gifts to buy for our friends and family?

Because most people don’t need what’s on sale during Black Friday or Cyber Monday. They don’t need another sweater, scented candle or kitchen gadget to clutter their countertops.

Still, apparel and accessories as well as gift cards are the top categories on U.S. shoppers’ wish lists this holiday season, according to the latest Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse survey.

I know many of you are conflicted because you want to be generous. But here’s some advice on having a more affordable holiday.

One year, my husband and I decided to try out a $100 holiday. We agreed to keep our budget to $100 (excluding food). We have a large extended family, and the gift-buying was becoming overwhelming.

The idea came from one of my favorite books, “Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas,” by Bill McKibben.

The best place to shop is other people’s lost luggage

McKibben started the movement as a way to help families avoid going into debt during the holidays. He also wanted to find an alternative for people fed up with the commercialism of the holidays.

“Forget all the figures about debt and bankruptcy and our general failure to save for our old age,” McKibben writes in his book. “Our strategy with Christmas … has gone slightly awry. We’ve gotten used to spending more money to make it special. But if money’s no longer as valuable as time, we’re offering each other a devalued currency.”

Whenever we try the $100 challenge, we have the best time. The point isn’t to stop giving; it’s to give things that matter.

“Give things that are rare — time, attention, memory, whimsy,” McKibben writes. “We run short on these things in our lives, even as we have an endless supply of software, hardware, ready-to-wear.”

This movement may seem mad to many, but try it. Wouldn’t you like a more joyful holiday season without the debt and stress?

Grandparents can record themselves reading their grandchildren’s favorite children’s books. Create a calendar with each month featuring your favorite photos taken during the year on your smartphone.

Give coupons for your time. My daughter, who is a great amateur chef, has given me coupons for home-cooked meals. Or offer to pet sit.

To spend less money on holiday shopping, get it done ASAP

If you decide to have a $100 holiday — and, yes, that includes the kids — email me at Let me know how you manage to live within the dollar limit.

Just a warning. If you’re going to attempt the $100 spending cap, prepare people — now.

When we tried this without an adequate explanation of our intentions, one relative didn’t speak to us until Easter.

Ideally, these are the folks who are the most understanding if you need to pull back. You should be able to be honest about your financial situation.

So, fess up that you’re struggling. Reassure them of your love and then suggest the group forgo gifts this year in favor of spending quality time together. (Imagine a whole evening of fun with no one obsessively checking their mobile device.)

Still, there is that one friend.

The one who doesn’t get the humor and practicality of regifting.

The friends who love being on the receiving end and who will be offended that you don’t speak their love language of gift-giving.

Like it or not, a gift for some is a visual symbol of love. But inexpensive can still be thoughtful.

Admittedly, it’s hard to disappoint a child looking forward to the largesse that comes with the holidays.

But if money is tight, you need to be honest with your children. Don’t scare them, but explain that the holidays might look a little different this year.

One holiday, I asked my eldest, who was 8 at the time, what was the most important thing about Christmas, and she said: “Mommy, don’t get mad, but the toys are the best thing about Christmas.”

If you want more personal finance advice that’s timeless, order your copy of Michelle Singletary’s Money Milestones.

I appreciated her honesty. Because immediately following that, she said: “If Santa doesn’t get me a lot of toys I’ll be mad, but just for a little while, Mommy. Then I’ll probably just go play with my cousins and I’ll forget about it.”

The glee children feel as they rip open gift after gift is temporary. The love they feel all year is permanent.

B.O.M. — The best of Michelle Singletary on personal finance

If you have a personal finance question for Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary, please call 1-855-ASK-POST (1-855-275-7678).

My mortgage payoff story: My husband and I paid off the house in the spring of 2023 thanks to making extra payments and taking advantage of a mortgage recast. Even though it lowered my perfect 850 credit score and my column about it sparked some serious debate with readers, it was one of the best financial decisions I’ve made.

Credit card debt: If you’re in the habit of carrying credit card debt, stop. It’s just a myth that it will boost your credit score. For those looking to get out of credit card debt, see if a balance transfer is right for you.

Money moves for life: For a more sweeping overview of my timeless money advice, see Michelle Singletary’s Money Milestones. The interactive package offers guidance for every life stage, whether you’re just starting out in your career or planning for retirement.

Test yourself: Do you know where you stand financially? Take our quiz and read more personal finance advice.

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