Man, the holidays can be killer on the wallet, can’t they? A few years ago, I wrote a post about 10 things you could do ahead of time to make December less stressful. One of those ideas was to set Christmas budget. Did you do it? Avoiding holiday debt can be tricky. The world say we need to consume during the holidays. If we’re not careful, it can be really easy to overspend and go into debt in December.
But, I’ve got some tips and tricks for you! These ideas are all ones that we’ve incorporated into our family. Three years ago, I was laid off in November. Just in time for the holidays! We tightened our bootstraps and made it through December without adding to our credit card balance. Avoiding holiday debt that year was on of the hardest (and most worthwhile) things I did that year!
Avoiding Holiday Debt
- Set a budget and stick with it. This one goes without saying. If you are committed to staying out of debt in December, you need to set a budget and stick with it!
- Make handmade gifts. You could make something edible or come up with a craft. Two years ago, I made wreaths for all of the women on my husband’s side of the family. I tailored those wreaths to the colors they had in their homes. The wreaths didn’t take long nor were the supplies expensive (I think I spent about $5.00 per wreath). They must have liked them, they’re all still up!
- Ask for what you need instead of just want you want. This is something we continue to do- especially with grandparent gifts. Malone needs socks and Lola needs pajamas this year, so we put them on their Christmas lists along with the things they want.
- Limit gift giving (especially in situations where there are tons of kids). Suggest a skipping gifts all together in favor of a group activity where everyone pays their way. If gifts are central to your holiday, try out a Yankee Swap (white elephant) exchange!
- Set a budget for your Christmas cards. Our Christmas card list has been all over the place the last few years. Right after we got married, every single person we invited to the wedding also got a Christmas card from us. I sent out around 150 cards. As the years went on, we changed our strategy. We’ve gone down to as few as 25 (immediate family that lived far away) and have settled on 50 cards or so.
- Focus on the experience of the holiday season. Read the Christmas Story, get a few great holiday movies from your local library, drive around and look at the lights. There are so many great ways to incorporate the spirit of the season without spending a ton of money.
- Create your own traditions. Traditions are the threads that weave our stories together. We keep just a few holiday traditions, but they do not cost a lot of money. Christmas Eve church, reading our family Advent devotional, and decorating the tree while we drink hot cocoa and listen to old fashioned Christmas carols are a few of our favorites.
- Keep the credit cards at home. Seriously, don’t even bring them to the stores with you. If you pay with cash, you’ll be able to stick to your budget and not be tempted when you come across a deal too good to refuse. Hint, there are always good deals that are hard to refuse! (see #1).
- Let travel be your gift. We have done this on numerous occasions. Because we live so far away from our families, we’ve been up front with them about holiday travel. On the years we do head somewhere for New Years (we never EVER travel for Christmas because we like to be home on Christmas morning), we let our families know in advance that is our gift- to spend quality face time with them.
- Shop second hand. My kids are still young enough where I can pull this off. I’ve been able to do really well at consignment stores for holiday outfits as well as gifts from Santa. We shop second hand often, so Malone won’t even bat an eyelash when some of his presents aren’t in their original packaging. If your kids are older instead of wrapping the gift, you could always leave it unwrapped and set up ready to go!
How are you doing with your holiday budget this year? What are you splurging on?