Commercials, advertisements and peer pressure make it oh-so-tempting to overspend during the holiday season. For debt-free holidays, try these tips to keep your family’s budget safe.
Over the last 6 weeks we have been doing a series on Creating family memories on a budget because we know how important it is to get our financial house in order too!
10 Tips for Debt-Free Holidays
Prepare a holiday budget. Don’t just start in December, but begin planning for the holidays well in advance. You know that holidays are pricey. Food, traveling and gifts all add up quick. Sit down and create a list of gifts you will need to purchase for Christmas. Don’t forget to calculate traveling expenses such as food, hotel-stay and fuel or airline costs if you have to travel. Estimate the totals costs to give you a rough estimate of how much you should divvy out for the holidays. Seeing it on paper helps you see the financial reality of all your spending habits — good or bad. Also, there is a sense of “I have to stick with my budget” that comes over you when it is all written down. Dave Ramsey has a really easy way to keep track of everything and budget – I like using it from my phone.
Plan ahead. The holidays come at basically the same time every single year. Yet, most years we are scrambling for last minute-gifts and wondering where did all the money go? Striving for a debt-free holiday season takes preparation and thought. One way to plan ahead is to keep an eye out for any super-deals that would make perfect gifts for your loved ones and friends. If you pay-out-of pocket when a good sale hits, many times there will be little left to pay when the holiday season comes around.
Set a limit. It’s tempting to purchase all the newest toys and gadgets for your almond-eyed munchkins. It feels so good to hear them squeal in delight as they tear off the snowmen wrapping paper that reveals the gift of their dreams. But, too many times we let our emotions take over our brain. We end up buying our kids way more than they need, or even want! Set a price or item limit for each of your kids that will help them enjoy the gift-receiving aspect of Christmas without becoming a hoarder.
Shop online. Shopping online will cut out gas costs, temptations to eat out and time. You can shop late at night when the kids are tucked into bed or anytime when things are calm and quiet. It feels great to shop for all your family’s special gifts without fighting holiday traffic. Do yourself another financial favor, and never pay for shipping. There are so many promo codes and online shipping deals that if you spend a few minutes searching, you have a huge chance of scoring free shipping for your holiday goodies.
Save receipts. For me it is kind of like having to write down everything I eat. If I am requiring myself to track what I spend by looking at the increasing stack of receipts on my desk, it makes me think twice if I really need it!
Draw names. If your family is growing by leaps and bounds, you may want to consider drawing names for gifts. This can be a real bubble buster for some, but most people will understand the financial soundness behind this thought. You can set a price limit that is more than fair. A generous price limit will help curb people from buying super-cheap presents no one wants anyway. By cutting down the amount of gifts you have to purchase, you are giving more room for thought and greater investment.
Think with your brain, not your heart. Charities, craft fairs, school fundraisers and gift-exchange parties are in full swing during the holidays. You have to choose when to say no and when to say yes. You cannot give a donation to every single holiday adventure. Set a limit on how much you can give towards holiday drives and fundraisers.
Think homemade. Homemade gifts, décor and food will give you lots of extra room in your holiday budget. Dollars upon dollars can be saved by putting thought and time into your gift giving by making hand-crafted or baked items with your own two hands! Check out our 101 Homemade gifts for kids for a ton of ideas!
Don’t strive to “Keep up with the Joneses.” It’s tempting to feel like an utter failure as a parent when you notice your neighbor’s kids riding their ATVs on Christmas morning. We all have different salaries, different needs, expenses and dreams. Don’t give in to the peer pressure of having to have all the material possessions your neighbors, friends and families enjoy. Probably the most vital step to staying debt-free during the holidays is just simply being content with what you have.
Don’t shop snack. If I am on a marathon shopping expedition to get everything done in a short amount of time, I often feel the “need” to reward myself with an expensive coffee or treat when there are boxes of perfectly good holiday treats at home. By keeping a bottle of water handy in my purse and waiting for the treat until I get home, it helps my wallet and my waistline.
You are already on the right track to a debt-free holiday season if you are reading this article. Holiday debts can cause added stress to your family when all the merry-making has ended. Do your part and plan, prepare and purpose in yourself to have a happy holiday season — without all the added debt!