We all have that one friend. The one that posts Christmas memes in September, getting all excited that there are “only 100 days” until Christmas. And then there are your friends that apparently couldn’t care less. Scrooge! We all have one thing in common though: we want to spend as little as possible on Christmas this year and every year.
My husband Paul and I have been together for eleven years now (some days it feels like two and some days it feels like forty!) and we have two boys, ages 7 and 9. I am proud to say that we have never, not ever gone into debt to pay for Christmas. Wanna know our secrets? Read on, friend!
11 Tips for Staying out of Debt at Christmas Time
Why go crazy with it? Isn’t Christmas more about spending time with your family and enjoying the holidays than spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on gifts? Here are our top tips for doing Christmas debt-free.
1. Create a list – and stick to it
Santa’s got a list, why not you? One sure-fire way to overspend this Christmas is to buy haphazardly and without purpose. This leads to overbuying and overspending. Starting now, create a list of possible gift ideas for each person. Just a few items will suffice. When you see a deal in the coming months, pounce on it.
2. Shop early
Shopping early doesn’t necessarily mean buying early. Keep your list of gifts you know you’re on the hunt for in your purse or wallet (or better yet, take a photo with your phone so you have it with you at all times) and cross them off as they are purchased.
3. Wait it out
Just because something is on sale now, that does not mean it won’t go cheaper before Christmas comes. Retailers are becoming more and more competitive with their sales. Sometimes the best deals aren’t until weeks or perhaps even days before the big day. That being said, I wouldn’t wait until the last minute either. Watch the trends and do frequent online searches for the big ticket items on your list. Amazon Prime is my best friend.
4. Check the Black Friday ads
Paul and I are going to work hard this year to provide you with a database of Black Friday stores, hours, and ALL of the advertised deals across the country. This means that (when the ads are released) we will have a SEARCHABLE database on Penny Pinchin’ Paul of Black Friday deals. Looking for a new TV? Search it. I’ll update when that database is live. 😉
You could, of course, also do your own research as the ads are leaked. Find out which store has what you need – and if it’s worth getting out on Thanksgiving Day evening or in the wee hours of Black Friday morning to score that deal. If it adds up to only a $10 savings, I’d rather buy it now and avoid the hassle, allowing me to stay home and enjoy my family on the holiday.
5. Don’t buy so much!
I’ve noticed a trend in some of my friends’ Facebook posts the last few years. They are buying less, but more meaningful gifts. One of my favorites? Gifting just four things for each child:
Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
Something to read
How great is that?! We know that the “something to read” part is going to be relatively inexpensive, and the “something you need” might be as well. Shoot, I constantly NEED more hair ties. lol!! “Something to wear” might even be something you make yourself!
6. Give handmade gifts
Do you crochet or knit, or sew? How about a scarf for a headband in their favorite shade of blue? If you’re crafty with woodworking, you could create a shelf or another item that would be a valued gift. Much more thoughtful and meaningful as well, and something the recipient will treasure forever. Watch for deals on the supplies (and rebates via your smartphone apps!) and you’re double saving.
7. Put a little money away, starting yesterday
Instead of using layaway, why not start putting a little money in an envelope every week? I’ll be honest: I am not disciplined enough for the 52 week challenge that always surfaces around New Year’s Day; the one where you put in $1 the first week, $2 the second week etc. Nope, not gonna do it. BUT, I might start putting some money in an envelope every week or month starting in the summertime! Put $50 per paycheck in that envelope and watch your fund grow. Use that money to do your shopping.
8. Use credit card rewards
Paul and I use our credit cards for everything we buy. And I do mean everything. We pay them off every month, and we like to use our rewards points for travel. If money is particularly tight though, we can redeem for gift cards to Walmart, Target, Best Buy etc and use that money to pay for gifts – instead of our own.
9. Buy gift cards for fuel points
If you know you’re going shopping at a particular retailer, and that you’ll spending a certain amount, stop by your local grocery store and pick up a gift card there. My grocer (Dillons, a Kroger affiliate) offers 2X fuel points on gift card purchases every day. Sometimes they bump that up to 4x the fuel points! So, if I buy a $50 gift card to Old Navy, they’ll give me 200 fuel points during that promotional period that will then save me 20¢ per gallon of gas.
10. Set your budget
Ugh, budgets. I know, friend. I hate them too. But, a necessary evil when you’re money conscious and especially at Christmas! Figure out how much you want to spend per person, and how much the “big gift” should be. Some families say that they’ll spend $100 per child no matter what, some say $500 per child. We are on the lower end of that spectrum, but creating a budget also helps to avoid spending more on one kid/person than you do another.
11. Give less!
If your family insists on buying for every single person – including those distant cousins – the simple truth is that the entire family is spending more. How about creating a rule that you MUST give a handmade item (whether that is a card or a crafted gift etc) or have a dirty santa/white elephant party instead. This means that you’ll only have to buy ONE gift – if any at all!
Does all of this make me a scrooge? I don’t think so. After all, isn’t Christmas and the holidays about spending time with your family instead of spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars?
BIG thanks to Kelsey for letting me use her GORGEOUS tree photo!
More money saving tips:
Better Budget: How to Live On ONE Income, Tips and Budget Ideas
Ways to Free Up Money Immediately (When You’re Feeling Broke)
Why You Need to Stay a Month Ahead of Your Expenses
9 Tips to Becoming Debt Free
Why You Need to Create a Secret Savings Account
Tips for Choosing Credit Cards (for Their Rewards Programs)
Six Reasons You Should *EXCLUSIVELY* Use Credit Cards