At holiday time, ‘tis the season to be jolly – but for many, it’s also the time of year to go deeply into debt. With so many people already having a hard time financially, the thought of starting the new year with yet more money problems can be very troubling. But with early and careful planning, you can celebrate the holiday season and still remain debt-free. Before you start shopping, talk with family and friends about cutting back on gift giving this year. Consider drawing names for a gift exchange rather than everyone buying presents for everyone else.
Shopping Tips for a Debt-Free Christmas
Get a head start on a debt-free Christmas by doing your end-of-year closet cleaning a little early and having a yard sale, then earmark the funds for holiday shopping. Consider getting a part-time seasonal job; you’ll earn extra money and, depending on where you work, you can get a discount on gift purchases. Try to spend only cash on presents; leave your credit cards at home whenever you can. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on gifts and stick to that limit, no matter what. Make a list of everyone you plan to buy a present for and try to decide what you’re going to get for each person before you go shopping: this will help you avoid more debt and expensive impulse purchases. Research prices before you go shopping, both in local stores and online. And remember: retail businesses are feeling the economic crunch just like everyone else. Use this to your advantage and search out the best deals – and don’t be afraid to bargain what seems like a fixed price in a store, especially if you’ve seen the same item for less elsewhere. Plus, if you’ve planned your debt-free Christmas well and have money left over in your budget, take advantage of after-holiday sales and buy ahead for next year.
Read the Fine Print for a Debt-Free Christmas
Keep an eye out for coupons and rebates in newspapers, flyers, and online. These money-saving offers will help your budget and, better yet, help keep you out of debt. Look for “gift with purchase” buys where you get a bonus item when you buy something. Two gifts for the price of one; what could be better? Do you have a credit card that offers rewards? Most people use these for travel, but you can also sometimes trade in points for merchandise or gift cards. These are often no great bargain, but if you’re not saving the points for a trip, this could be an alternative way to do some holiday shopping without spending money or adding to your credit card debt.
Do-It-Yourself and be Debt-Free
If you’re crafty, make practical gifts like canvas tote bags (you can find free patterns on the Internet), scented soap, candles, or hand-crocheted scarves. Go to a garage sale or thrift store, buy a funky china platter and fill it with home-baked goodies. Remember that family heirloom that’s gathering dust on a shelf in a closet? Now’s the time to take it down, wrap it nicely, and give it to a relative who will appreciate and use it. Look through all those pictures you’ve got stored on the computer; you won’t have to go into debt to make customized photo books for family members. You can also use your computer to print up colorful “gift certificates” that friends and family can exchange for babysitting, help around the house, a home-cooked meal, or something more personally geared for each recipient.