When it comes to Christmastime, it is so easy to get off budget, get into debt, and get into financial trouble before you even know it! It is a difficult time financially and can be a very stressful time time of the year, even for many leading to financial troubles in the months to follow. Even worse, some are still paying last year’s Christmas off, while getting into more debt this Christmas.
We don’t want that to be our readers, because……well, that was us at one time. It was a painful road and made each Christmas a dread instead of a joy. So to help, we have compiled a list of 15 tips below to help you minimize your spending, stay out of debt and enjoy this holiday season instead of dreading it (both now and in the years to come).
1. Don’t be tempted by credit card offers
They may sound intriguing with their attractive offers, but signing up for a number of credit cards (especially store credit cards) will negatively affect your credit, even if you are good at paying them off. Not only that, but store credit cards can also lock you into spending at the one store. Sure, you may get an extra discount, but with the internet and deals galore, you could probably save that extra discount (e.g., Kohl’s usually offers an extra 10% or 15% off just for using their card) on any given day somewhere else. Finally, those extra credit cards adds to the ease of impulse buying – which is a MAJOR problem for even well-planned shoppers. All in all, from negative credit score impacts down the road to multiple problems you can face today, stay away from those offers.
2. Realize that no deal is worth going into debt over or worth sacrificing your needs now
There are deals galore everywhere. They come and go constantly. Just because you see something that appears to be a great deal, that deal can be found again elsewhere down the road when you can afford it. And even if you can’t find that rock bottom deal, just ask yourself whether that extra few dollars is worth the pain.
3. Tap into gift cards and credits that you haven’t yet used
This day and age, you may have store credits for referrals to group-buying sites or those discount shopping sites. Or you may have a number of unused gift cards. Use these to buy gifts or even re-gift them.
4. Take advantage of money-off coupons.
When it comes to buying new items, I keep a sharp eye out for those money-off coupons. They come in the mail, but you can also find them on apps like the RetailMeNot app while shopping in the store. Even if I have found myself in a store that I wasn’t intending to stop at – I will also check the app and be certain I don’t have additional discounts available for my purchase.
As a secret, I love the Kohls and JCPenney $10 off $10 or $10 off $25. I have literally used a few $10 off $10 coupons at JCPenney a few times this season (they seem to be releasing one each week!). When I receive one, I take it into the store, find an item that is normally $30 (on sale for $10 -$15) and use that coupon! I have purchased several presents already this way for the adults on our list and spent less than $10 total.
Another great coupon is the $5 off $25 coupon available for many stores. The percent-off coupons are valuable as well, but I still love those cash off coupons!
5. Look for hidden treasures (hint: every store has hidden treasures!)
You just never know if any of those odds and ends, clearances, or super markdowns that would make for a special and unique gift for someone on your list. This can be a great way to save a ton and buy something unique. When you think about it, most of your money is going on those kids’ “wish list” items (you can’t really substitute a scarf for that Frozen toy) – but for everyone else on your list creativity can be a key way to save money.
6. Be creative and go handmade
Along with point #5 (creativity with those hidden treasures) this one works well too. What if you found a unique item for cheap in a treasure-cove of a store and then you added to it with handmade gifts?! That’s what I do for most of the adults on our list. It requires very little money, a bit of creativity, and a lot of love; often those homemade gifts become the truly cherished gifts received that year!
7. Give the priceless gift – service!
I personally love gifts of service more than stuff! Most adults will be this way. I would love for someone to give free babysitting for a night off. Maybe come and help clean my house for a couple of hours. Even take care of yardwork or shoveling snow. You get the drift! Those are PRICELESS gifts we love to give and REALLY love to receive. 🙂
8. Follow this gift giving rule and stick to it
If you can limit the number of gifts you give to your friends and family you can really start saving money. And when you do this, you’ll find that your gifts mean more because you really put a lot of thought and love into that gift.
- For kids: one gift to play with, one gift to read, one gift to wear.
- For adults: one thoughtful gift (consider the priceless one), one small token of a gift
9. Consider gently used toys and clothes for kids.
When we started our $100k consumer debt payoff goal, we had first Christmas’ for kids and a few years of subsequent Christmases on a tight budget. So we bought gently used toys and clothes at garage sales, via classified ads, thrift stores, etc. and our kids actually had no idea! Bonus – many of the toys are already put together. 🙂 We bought a plastic kitchen for our girls for $10 at a garage sale. This used kitchen went through 5 kids and 8 years of play. Last year, we sold this same kitchen set at a garage sale for $5!
We have purchased tricycles, Mega Blocks, classic toys, popular toys and so many toys used! Again, our kids didn’t know and they didn’t care, but we literally saved Christmas and kept on track financially. It’s okay to buy used toys, in fact it is a responsible thing to do when the only other options before you are going into debt or sacrificing the family’s needs. But it is also a wise thing to do even if those things aren’t at risk. We still do this here and there, even though we are out of debt, and are well planned for Christmas; its just hard to spend a lot of money on a new toy when you can buy it gently used and save so much money!
10. Don’t forget that one of the most fun parts of Christmas for kids is to unwrap
Wrap up things you would have bought them for their needs: wrap up thrift store toys, a couple of dollar store toys, all the stocking stuffers, etc. I know this may sound stupid or simplistic, but this was something my mom told me when I became a first-time mom and was dealing with the spending factor.
After she said that, I realized that this is what they did when we were kids. We didn’t have a ton of nice toys or things, but my mom wrapped everything. Not only the one toy we received, but the new underwear I needed anyway, chapstick, bathsoap, shoes, etc. And its funny as I think back as I really did love to unwrap – even as a teen! The mystery of it was the fun part! I never put the pieces together until she told me that as a new mom and was feeling that stress.
11. For those hot, coveted items of the year that you want to get
If you have to buy that expensive gift, do it the cheapest way we know how! Follow these steps in our post on The Secrets to Finding the Best Deals on Anything to get your absolute lowest prices right now on those hot items. Often, the results from following the steps we previously outlined are 40-50-60%+ or more!
12. Do a penniless week challenge and scrimp and save for a week for some extra cash.
Follow those rules in our Penniless Week Challenge rules HERE. Thousands of our readers (and us) have done this at different times throughout the year and have literally found hundreds of extra dollars each and every time!
13. Find cash NOW with this list of 11 Ways to Find $500 – $800 This Week
Just having extra cash on hand keeps you out of debt. Plus, if you say to yourself “I have $150 to spend and no more” it also helps to keep you from overspending and cuts back on impulse buying. Go find that money now in our article showing you those 11 Ways to Find $500-$800 This Week article!
14. Don’t make gifts the focus in your home
Instead, focus on the beauty of the season, the true meaning of Christmas, the family time, the memories and the experience. Looking back on my Christmases as a kid, I hardly remember a single gift in all 18 years at home (and since for that matter). Instead, I remember the setting, the atmosphere, the people, the meals, the singing, the memories and I have cherished those all my life. Make these things the focus in your home so that the need to spend is not there.
15. Don’t get into this bind again
Trust us, in our past, Christmastime was a time where we would seem to lose all self-control (if getting into $100k of consumer debt wasn’t losing self control already) and we would justify the debts, the purchases and the financial crisis that affected us well into the new year, adding onto the top of our debt load. When we consider it, we probably paid for much of that additional debt for a few years as it was hidden in our credit debt load.
So when we made our plan to get out of debt, we knew we had to plan ahead for Christmas if we were going to stay on track through the Christmas season. Mind you, when we finally realized our debt troubles and started making our plans to get out of debt, we had also just started having children (we mentioned the first Christmases above for a couple of our children). It was hard while on a super tight budget. But this one of the reasons we are sharing these tips on how to have a special Christmas when you have no money.
So how do you solve this? Start saving for Christmas with a few dollars (or more) per paycheck starting in January. We have done this differently each year based on how our income was coming in. If we budgeted off of a paycheck, we would save $5-$10 from each paycheck and put in a special savings account. This gave us all year to save; it also gave us money early in the season – like when the super huge toy clearances hit in August and September.
Recently, we have planned our Christmas budget based on a percentage of our take-home pay. We did this because we conduct a few side businesses/jobs. This has worked well for us too!
Finally, you can conduct a side business/service/job in which the money earned will go into a Christmas fund (find an ideas in our list of Over 100 Ways to Earn Extra Income). You can deliver newspapers (even for a few months) to build a Christmas fund (we did this one year!). You can babysit in your home for other moms here and there and put this money in your fund. You could sell a product and sell crafts at a craft fair or store while saving your profits to fund your Christmas account! The sky really is the limit – are you ready to do it?
We’re not saying you need to follow all of these tips, but we encourage you to sit down with your family in January and figure out your goal for your Christmas budget (calculating not only gifts, but special activities, extra meals, extra giving, etc.). And then, when you’ve discussed and agreed on that goal, figure out which methods above you would like to use and make next year the best Christmas ever – by saving, staying out of debt, and even enjoying the holiday more with a better focus with your family.