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How to Stay Out of Debt this Christmas (& Next Christmas)

How to Stay Out of Debt this Christmas (& Next Christmas)
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Christmas is always tight around here. It just seems like December is one big sink hole of money. But the truth is, I love, love, love this holiday. I love giving to everyone I love. I love decorating, I love making cookies (well, I love eating lots of cookies), and I love celebrating. And it doesn’t have to be a money pit.

{Update to the original post: we are now completely debt-free! You can read our debt-free story here}

Stay Out of Debt ChristmasOh, also…I should mention that December is our anniversary, our son’s birthday, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, my brother-in-law’s birthday, and my sister-in-law’s birthday. Good Lord in Heaven Above, ain’t nobody got time for THAT!

But then…I love all of these people dearly, and I want to celebrate them all.

So, somehow, we always make it work.

Stay Out of Debt ChristmasI read a lot of articles about budgeting and ways to trim the budget, save, etc. Honestly, they’re a lot of the same. So with this, I want to share with you some actual ways you can afford Christmas when you can’t afford Christmas. And hopefully, these ideas will be a little outside the box and a lot helpful!

Set a budget. I don’t care if your budget is $5,000, $500, or $50. Just setting it is the first thing you need to do. I’m so serious about this…even when our money feels a little out-of-control and I’m tempted to throw my hands up and say, “Forget it!” and charge Christmas to a credit card, I set a budget. Just having this realistic number in place will guide you through the next steps. 

Want to learn more about budgeting? Join my 60 Day Budgeting Challenge – budgeting can change your life.

Take it a step further and budget out an exact amount to spend on each person on your list. You can use this Christmas Budget Printable to get you started. If you don’t have money to spend on anyone, that’s okay, too…be honest with yourself. And see some inexpensive gift ideas below!

Printable Christmas Shopping List

If you are trying to get out of debt, don’t put Christmas on your credit cards. I am not here to judge. I have charged plenty of things on credit cards, many of them impulse buys, and many of them at Christmas time. But you know what? Sometime in July, when I’m still paying for that dumb thing I bought for my kids that they’ve thrown away anyway? I regret it. 

Some people use credit cards with their budget, strategically and responsibly. I am all about strategic and responsible spending and I am SUPER not here to judge you. 

But if you’re on the fence, and paying off debt is your goal…let’s get creative and find ways to gift that don’t involve charging anything.

Stay Out of Debt Christmas

Make your own gifts. True story: I once made sea salt bath scrubs for everyone in my family. It wasn’t very expensive to make, and I put it in these beautiful glass jars. Then I went to ship it all and OMG SHIPPING WAS SO EXPENSIVE. Lesson learned: think out the whole process, from supplies to wrapping to shipping, before committing to a huge DIY gifting spree.

Here are some gifts that are inexpensive to make:

World's Best Hot Chocolate

Chex Mix in a jar recipeBuy pre-owned for the kids. For everyone, for that matter. You can shop for pre-owned clothing online at places like ThredUp and Schoola. You can save a ton of money at these sites, and the kids won’t know the difference! You can also find books at Thrift Books. Local consignment stores, Craiglist, and Facebook marketplace are great places to find toys.

Sell some stuff. We just went on a cleaning rampage in the garage. As we were cleaning, we snapped pictures of everything we didn’t want, even the random stuff, gave it a price, and listed it to Facebook marketplace. We made $25 in an hour, and got rid of some junk while we were at it.

Also consider trades…if you need a bike for child, see what you might be able to trade or barter with someone local who is getting rid if a bike. 

Stay Out of Debt ChristmasDraw names. If you have a large family, put everyone’s name in a hat and have each person draw a name. We started doing this a few years ago. This way, we’re buying a Christmas gift for one person, not every sibling and spouse at Christmas.  

Hit up the Dollar Store. You guys! The Dollar Store has so much fun stuff. You can put together cute little gift packs (maybe a mug, lipgloss, and coffee samples for your favorite coffe-loving friend) for just a few bucks each. If you use a cute mug or dish as a container to hold the gift, you can add some tissue and maybe a ribbon and call it a day.

Stay Out of Debt ChristmasDon’t travel. Traveling out-of-town to see family is important sometimes. I totally get that. But sometimes, staying afloat financially so you can afford to travel at a future time is important, too. Traveling is so expensive. 

Start saving for Christmas in January. It seems hard to do, especially if you’re still paying off the holidays, but the key to not being in this bind again next year is to start saving now. Look at how much you spend this year, and then decide if that was a good number, or if you want to spend more of less next year. Then divide that number by twelve, and start putting cash away each month. We use a cash envelope system to save. 

All this to say, my biggest piece of advice for not going into debt over Christmas is…don’t spend what you don’t have. Make what you have work for you. You can do it! I know you can!

What are your best tips for surviving the biggest spending spree of the year?

Follow us on Facebook for more budgeting help and free printables. And be sure to check out the posts below for more budgeting help.

How to Use Cash Envelopes

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