Avoid holiday debt this year. Nothing will ruin Christmas and holiday memories faster than a debt hangover in January. With Christmas a few weeks away, now’s a perfect time to make a holiday spending plan before you hit the stores, that won’t max out your credit cards. Read on for some quick tips on how you can avoid holiday debt this year:
Set a budget
It does not matter if your budget is R5,000, R500, or R50. Just setting it is the first thing you need to do.…even when our money feels a little out-of-control and one is tempted to throw their hands up and say, “Forget it!” and charge Christmas to a credit card – set a budget. Just having this realistic number in place will guide you through the next steps.
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! Make a list of who you need to buy for and what you want to buy. Knowing who to buy for will help you avoid buying “stuff” just in case you missed someone.
Gifts that Truly Sparkle – Save Money With Homemade Gifts
Look at your shopping list and decide if you really need to buy for everyone on the list. You still have time to make some personalized gift certificates for those who would value your time, company or help over a store-bought item. Think about babysitting for new parents, helping an older aunt or uncle around their home, or taking a grandparent out for a drive followed by dinner at your house. Homemade gifts can save money, but they also come from the heart which can put a real twinkle in someone’s eyes.
The One Card Secret to Avoiding Debt
Shop using only one credit card. If you have several, choose the credit card with the lowest interest rate and leave all the others at home. Also, take a look at the statement cutoff date so that you know when you’ll have to start making payments. Using only one card also makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve spent. Once you’ve bought for someone, cross them off your list so that you don’t keep buying.
Sneak into the Mall – Avoid Busy Times and Impulse Shopping
Pick off-peak times to actually do your shopping. Most kids (or is it just the ones on the “nice” list?) are in school until close to Christmas, so hitting the stores during the day might save you some time and help you avoid impulse shopping. Eat before you go and take a bottle of water along. Every little bit of savings will help keep your budget from becoming naughty!
Special Gifts for Kids to Keep Busy
One or two favourite toys is better than a mountain of toys and is less expensive.
If you’re buying for kids, think about what they are interested in and what they would likely play with as soon as they’re done opening their gifts. While it can be easy to think that they would like a mountain of toys, they usually only play with one or two, which become immediate favourites. By buying something they can do or play with right away, they don’t think about how much or how little they got – they’re too busy enjoying their time playing with what they have!
The Very Best Gift for Your Spouse
Consider not exchanging expensive gifts with your spouse. Buy a game that the whole family can play together, a DVD for family movie night, and some treats that will become part of what you serve when guests or family stop by. (The first thing on my list for my husband is always a box of his favourite chocolates. Thankfully, he’s not stingy about sharing!) There likely isn’t anything either of you truly needs, so give yourselves the gift of less debt come January.
A Nod to Tradition – Some Budget-Friendly Ideas
Take this year to start some new traditions and focus on enjoying your time with family and friends. Buying Christmas gifts the whole family can enjoy is another way to save some money and start new traditions! In the hustle and bustle, it’s all too easy to forget that Christmas and the holidays should be about making memories, not piling on mountains of debt.
If you are trying to get out of debt, don’t put Christmas on your credit cards. We are not here to judge, we 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 we are still paying for that dumb thing we bought for our kids that they’ve thrown away anyway? We regret it.
Make your own gifts.
Here are some gifts that are inexpensive to make:
- Hot Chocolate Mix (use a small plastic container if you’re going to ship these)
- Orange Mint Sugar Scrub (same advice about the containers!)
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 money and got rid of some junk while we were at it.
Also, consider trades…if you need a bike for your child, see what you might be able to trade or barter with someone local who is getting rid of a bike.
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.
Travelling out-of-town to see family is important sometimes. But sometimes, staying afloat financially so you can afford to travel at a future time is important, too. Travelling 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 or 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!