Finances, Holidays

How to Get Through the Holidays Debt-free

It’s that time of year again, a time to be with family and friends and to show your loved ones how much you truly love and appreciate them. However, no matter how much you love someone, you shouldn’t have to go into debt to show them you truly care. So here are a few ways to make sure you get through the Holidays debt-free:

Write a list and set a realistic budget

As cliche as this may sound, you should write a list and check it twice. Writing a list is the first thing to do if you want to stay on track. This will allow you to see everything you have to purchase for the holiday season. I am a firm believer that you need to write your list in order to stay on budget. I like to write down all the names that will be receiving a gift, the food I will need to make dinner, decorations, donations and whatever else I will need to make the season bright.

Once the list is complete, you move on to creating your budget. Creating a realistic budget is where some people go wrong. If you are on a budget of $500 and you have to get your food, decorations and five gifts, you are not going to buy everyone a $100 gift because this leaves $0 for everything else on the list. One way to create a realistic budget is to say I will spend $50 per gift for adults and $30 per gift for children and the rest will be used for the other categories.

This year we are spending Christmas in Philly and have budgeted $650. This covers 9 presents, donations, workplace gift exchange and food.

Try out different gift ideas

Secret Santa is a nice way to stay under budget if you have a large family. Instead of buying gifts for everyone you can simply set a dollar limit and pick a name. Depending on your dollar limit – get creative. Having a Secret Santa also gives you the chance to focus on being present versus getting a lot of presents.

Normally, my family does Secret Santa with a $30 limit. And when you live here, you really have to get creative with $30. You can also play different Secret Santa games like the White elephant gift exchange.

For someone who has children, a great gift idea is the ‘4 Gift Rule’. You by one gift that is a want, one that is a need, one that they can wear and one that they can read. This option makes shopping easier and is budget friendly.

Start shopping early

Starting early could mean using the day after Christmas to get gifts for the following year or using Black Friday to get gifts at a steep discount. And if Black Friday isn’t your thing a lot of stores are starting to have pre-Black Friday sales or send special deals to their loyal customers. For example, Gibbons Company recently had a 20% discount on their excluded items (items that are always excluded from sales) and they only give discounts on those items once a year.

When you start planning for Christmas early, you reduce the stress of the season and it forces you to be mindful of your spending because you have more time to overspend. I tend to buy gifts right up until the last minute because I procrastinate and it means I tend to spend more than I wanted to spend. But this year will be different. I gave myself until December 10th to get all my shopping complete. I got this – I have a solid shopping plan and budget.

Potluck Christmas Dinner

This is for the people that have really big families or the ones who tend to do all of the cooking. To reduce stress and the amount you spend on food, simply ask each guest to bring something. You can have one person bring non-edible items, another person can bring the sweet potato pie and someone else can bring Mac and Cheese. If you cannot depend on the people you invited, you can ask everyone to pitch in $10.

By having a potluck dinner, everyone is sharing the cost and no one feels like they are doing all the heavy lifting. Also, a potluck is a great opportunity to share good food and good vibes with family and friends.

If you make a plan, set and stick to a realistic budget and chose presence over presents, you will definitely start your 2019 with a wallet that is a little bit heavier.