Surviving the Holidays Without Credit Cards

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The holiday season is right around the corner, and with it will come long shopping lines, and for many, large credit card bills. However, bringing out the credit cards simply to afford the holiday season is a big and costly mistake. Paying high interest rates on a maxed out card until next spring simply to get your 8-year-old a great prepaid cell phone stocking stuffer is ridiculous. Instead, consider the following tips to make your holiday season enjoyable without needed to constantly whip out the plastic:

1. Learn discipline

You won’t make it through the holiday season debt free unless you learn to keep yourself under control. While it is fun to shop and cook for loved ones, it is also costly. Don’t let yourself get carried away with buying the best gifts for every one you’ve ever come into contact with – this goes for your kids too. Make a reasonable shopping list, and stick to it. If you don’t shop with discipline, you will overspend and make last minute, unnecessary purchases that will only cause you to go overbudget and most likely rack up those credit cards.

2. Create an accurate budget

When most people begin planning for their holiday shopping, they only think of gifts and then give themselves one solid amount for those gifts. This is a sure fire way to set yourself up for overspending as budgeting just for gifts leaves out other holiday needs such as travel and food – both of which are integral parts of the holidays. When creating your budget for the holidays, be as accurate as possible. Include all major food purchases, gifts, and any travel expenses that will be needed to keep yourself from swiping those credit cards when funds are low.

3. Start preparing now

The sooner you start shopping, the better. Most people don’t have all the funds needed to complete holiday shopping in one month alone. By spreading out your shopping, you will give yourself more time to find the right deals and you will be less likely to charge any purchases as you won’t be spreading yourself so thin financially.

4. Shop smart and make your own

Always remember to shop smart. Your kids don’t always need the biggest and best; an inexpensive alternative can provide just as much entertainment and enjoyment. Shopping online can also greatly reduce shopping expenses. Certain items, such as electronics, books, and movies, can be purchased for significantly lower prices if bought online. For foods items, consider local farm markets or discount grocers to buy the fix-ins for your holiday meals. Alternatives to department and big box stores can provide huge savings without sacrificing quality so don’t be afraid to shop in them when trying to stay within your allotted budget. Making your own gifts is another great way to save money. This guide teaches you how to make all your own homemade cleaners naturally.

5. Delegate and share expenses

If you realize that your extravagant Thanksgiving meal is what is always sending you over budget, then ask others to help out. Simply request that everyone bring their favorite side dish to reduce costs. When holding holiday celebrations, there is no harm is asking others to help. It will actually make the event more enjoyable for everyone as it will be more personal, and it will be more enjoyable for you as it won’t be as stressful and won’t require as many funds.

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and giving, not one of financial instability and anxiety. Avoid putting yourself in the red by steering clear of the credit cards trap this holiday season. You don’t need to spend a lot to have the best holiday season. In fact, doing so will only make the season more stressful.



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1 Richard Brown

A trick I’ve started doing recently is to join together with someone who has a lot of mutual friends and buy combined gifts together. Oftentimes, the recipient is even more excited to be receiving a bigger gift instead of 2 smaller ones. This can save a lot of money especially if the two (or more) of you have a lot of mutual friends.

2 Matt Jabs

That’s a great idea. Us siblings sometimes do for our parents gifts but it is definitely a strategy that can be used to save more. One of our favorites over the last few years is to give giftbaskets filled with products we made in our home. Saves big time and it is much more personal than purchased gifts.

3 Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)

We have a line item in our budget for Christmas, so we begin saving in January. By the time the holidays come around we are pretty well prepared.

I teach those who take my Celebrating Financial Freedom course that if you have an expense that comes around quarterly, semi-annual, or annually, that you should put money back for it every month so that when it comes time you are able to pay it without any stress or scrambling to come up with the money.

When people ask me “how do I get out of debt?” usually one of the first things I tell them is to start doing a written budget that will help them prepare for those expenses that you always know will be coming but still somehow catch you by surprise when they come, thus eliminating periodic financial stress.

4 Matt Jabs

Listen to Jason folks, he’s right on. Betsy and I do the same thing w/irregular expenses and call it the “Fixed Non-monthly Expenses” account. We add the yearly totals up, divide by 12, and do an “auto savings draft” for that amount into the account each month.

5 Kevin @ Debteye

Don’t forget Black Friday! Awesome deals listed with retailers. But like Matt said, you gotta budget and make sure you don’t impulse shop.

Another great way is to start a “secret santa” with your friends. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, you now only need to buy 1 gift. I’ve always had a great time doing this with friends & family.

6 Matt Jabs

I avoid Black Friday like the plague; it’s the epitome of out-of-control consumerism. That said, if you NEED something – heck yeah – save for it and buy it on sale.

Love the secret santa idea for those buying gifts… we did that for a few years before telling family and friends we’d be making our gifts going forward. 🙂

7 Mom

The secret Santa idea works well at the workplace as well. One year, I combined the homemade gift idea with the Secret Santa idea and made a friend for life! I made my coworker a Christmas tree that was decorated wtoj home made salt dough ornaments. Each ornament had the name and birthdate of one of her grandchildren and she had enough grandkids to decorate the tree! She was not too sure about me before that tree, but after that tree, we became fast friends! 🙂

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