It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Just saying that and I’m sure your mind goes to cozy sweaters, lights, decorations, and all the joys of Christmas. And then you start thinking about where you hear that song, the stores, the traffic, the spending.
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year. We have gift lists, grocery lists, decoration lists, and don’t forget all the parties to attend. It all adds up on the calendar, and in our wallets.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Christmas can be fun, relaxing, and an enjoyable time. With a few tweaks, you can have fun during the holidays and keep the money in the bank!
8 Tips to having a Debt-Free Christmas
1. Debt Free Christmas Charts and Your Budget
Set a budget! It should include EVERYTHING: your food, decor, gifts for family and friends, and travel. Use one of my many charts to help you plan for Christmas all year long! The Debt-Free Christmas Chart is great to build a fund for all your Christmas expenses. I also have a Holiday Fund and Christmas Charts. And for your serious planning needs there's the Ultimate Christmas Pack.
If you have a large extended family, set amount limits. Plan potluck events as opposed to you providing all the food. This year you could save by holding off on any new decorations. Make them yourself as a family. Get creative on how to NOT spend money!
2. Shop for gifts early
Your gift list may be large, but the spending doesn’t have to be. Look for sales throughout the year and buy a little at a time. Put those presents in a container in your closet to keep them safe until you need them. This works great for birthdays and last minute gift needs as well. If I see something that I know will work for someone in my life, I buy it when I can and save it. Here’s a great blog on when to buy, with a free downloadable guide. I like to buy all my holiday decorations after the holiday. They’re on sale, and I put them away for the following year.
3. Use Coupons, Points, and Cashback
These options can save you so much money. If you have a credit card that earns points or cashback, save them for your Christmas shopping. I love my Amazon credit card, I use it for all my Amazon purchases. Then when Cyber Monday comes along, I spend them! I buy almost all my presents by Cyber Monday. Look for coupons through Groupon. You can get your loved ones an experience over a physical gift.
4. Consider Baking and DIY Gifts
This is a great way to spend time with family and save on gifts. Bake your favorite treats, or make fun gift baskets for the families on your list. The baskets could have themes: movie night, spa day, etc. One year a friend of mine gave us cinnamon rolls. All we had to do was put them in the oven Christmas morning! I still dream about them, because cinnamon rolls taste better when someone else does all the work! Another fun, unique gift: make your own extracts. You’re only limited to your imagination!
5. Simplify with the 4 Gifts Rule
When shopping for your kids remember this little poem. Buy them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. It can be so easy to get sucked into the hysteria of the newest and greatest, so stick to this and you’ll avoid the drama.
6. The "No New Decoration" Challenge
Do you have an addiction to needing just one more piece? Guilty! Whether it be for the lawn, the tree, or the table, STOP! This year, decide you will make do with what you have. Don't buy, even when it’s a really great price! Say no and wait until next Christmas.
7. Shop Online and Avoid Impulse Buys
Turn this into a mantra if you must! Confession time, I love shopping in stores during Christmas. The smells, the sights, the decorations, the music, I can’t help but be happy. But then I find so many things I didn’t know I needed! Avoid impulse buys and the added gifts by shopping online. Still don’t trust yourself? Put all your items in the cart and then sleep on it before you click buy.
By shopping online you will also save yourself in gas and time. I also find when I’m Christmas shopping I eat out more. Or I treat myself to that limited peppermint mocha-every time I shop!
8. Gift-Free Christmas
Now before you go, "nope, I have kids", hear me out. While this might be hard, it could be the best Christmas you’ve ever had. Full disclosure, I have never tried this. But I got the idea from a friend of mine, who said when they were teens, their family did this. Instead of buying presents, their family went on a service trip. If you are not familiar with this, check out this article. Not only does it explain it, but connects you with some great organizations. He, and his 3 younger siblings, still reflect on that being one of their top 5 Christmases.
So start small, you could do handmade gifts for only one year. On Christmas day share stories and words of encouragement. Find a service project. Working together as a family is a great way to bond. End the day with a fun family dinner.
8 Free Christmas Activities
Having a debt free Christmas doesn’t have to be boring. You can still have fun and make some memories with these 8 Free Activities.
1. PJs and Hot Chocolate Excursions
Get the kids all ready for bed, and then surprise them with a night out looking at lights. So many neighborhoods put on amazing light shows, find out if there’s one near you. Pack snacks and hot chocolate and you and enjoy some Christmas music and decorations.
2. Themed Movie Nights
Movie nights are a great way to enjoy the season, and make some memories. Everyone can pick a favorite to put on the list. I love doing Grinch Movie Marathons, starting with the original of course! Get into the spirit by having themed foods like this (Grinch themed)!
3. Christmas Eve Service
I LOVE Christmas Eve Services. If you do not attend a church that has one every year, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one. The songs, the familiar stories, the candle light. It brings a calm to the storm that is usually Christmas day. As a kid, we would always get to open one present after the Christmas Eve Service!
Breakout the guitars and ukuleles-if you have them. Or play a song list on your phone. But get out and sing! It’s fun and nostalgic. Who knows, you might love it so much you end up joining a local community chorus group!
5. Helping a Neighbor
The holidays can be a hard time for a lot of people. Is there someone in your life that lives too far from family? Is elderly and can’t leave the house as easily. Step in and help! See if they want help decorating their house. Drive them around for their errands. Make them a meal, or share a meal. Trust me, you’ll get more than you give on this one.
6. Let it Snow
I love snow. If you’re stuck in on a snow day, make a bunch of paper snowflakes to decorate the house with. If you’re really brave, bust out the glitter! If you live in a warmer climate and snow is scarce, this gives your home that wintery feel!
7. Sledding Challenge
Get on your snow gear and head to the nearest hill! Spend the day sledding and see who can go the fastest, the furthest, and/or do the neatest trick. End the day with some hot chocolate at home!
8. DIY Salt Dough Ornaments
I love making salt dough ornaments! You can keep them white and crisp looking, add handprints, paint them, dye the dough or glue on glitter. The ideas are endless! A variation that I think will smell AMAZING is this cinnamon ornament.
Get in the Spirit!
Christmas truly is the “most wonderful time of the year”! But it can be hard to get in the spirit when you’re stressing about money and how to pay for it all! Use as many of these tips and activities as you want. Start creating new memories and traditions this year!