Updated: January 8, 2019

18 Tips for a Debt-Free Christmas

Did you know that 28% of people are still paying off LAST December’s holiday season?!

You deserve to have a peaceful, stress-free Christmas and a key component to that is knowing you won’t have a January financial hangover.

We asked a few of our friends around the internet for their best Christmas money tips.

Here’s what they said:

Set the Stage

Create a vision. Many people enter the holidays with a vague idea of what a great holiday would look like. That vagueness can lead to practicing traditions and buying gifts that the cool mommy blogger says we have to have. We forget that we are all different with different values for our life. So, creating a very specific vision for the holidays that includes details about what you’ll say yes to and what you don’t want is crucial to not mindlessly spending! Then, creating an actual budget based on that vision will lead to joy, not debt!
– Nicole from Greatest Worth

Mindset is everything when it comes to having a debt free Christmas. Friends and family may not be on board with your goal of a debt free Christmas. It can be hard to let go of traditions, even if they are kind of silly (like everyone exchanging gift cards). Create a plan based on your debt free Christmas mindset. Talk to your kids, friends, and family about ways you can scale back the gift giving. Your mindset will make it easier to say no to extra parties or gift giving that are outside your plan. Even taking small steps to scale back can make a big difference in your holiday budget.
-Ashleigh from Smarts Cents Mom

Plan Ahead

Write down all your events and gifts in order of priority. Once you set your overall budget, go through the list until you are out of money.
– Ashley from Budgets Made Easy

Have a budget for the holidays, and have a gift list to keep track. Planning early makes a huge difference.
– Gina from The Frugal Convert

Plan out how many people you need/want to give gifts to. Having a realistic list is key to stay within budget properly and staying out of debt. Examples: family, friends, teachers, postman, trashmen, and charities. I also budget extra gift cards in case I forget someone.
– Holly from Microstuff

Stick to a budget. A budget doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as simple as creating a spreadsheet which lists out who you are planning on buying gifts for, the budget for that gift, and gift ideas within that budget. If you’re in a relationship, share this spreadsheet with your significant other and divide up the responsibilities. Now, it’s as simple as spending exactly as much as (or less) on each person that you budgeted for.
-R.J. from The Ways to Wealth

Set expectations. If your family is working to get out of debt, there’s a strong likelihood that this Christmas may be a bit “leaner” than prior years. So it’s imperative that you set gift expectations with your loved ones ahead of time. Let them know that your list and gifts will be limited this year because you’re working towards a greater goal. By doing this, you take the pressure off of yourself and you manage the expectations of those around you. Who knows, they may join in and help you get creative with your gifts!
-Fo from Girl Talk with Fo

Plan ahead and create a sinking fund [We call these Piggy Banks here at WalletWin]. Decide who you are going to spend money on during the Christmas season and how much you want to spend per person, and then divide the total over the duration of the year. It will add up over time without being too taxing on your monthly budget. You can add a little extra for those unexpected purchases that might occur, too.
-Liz from Kitchen Table Finances

Travel Smart. If you’re going to visit your family over the holiday season, make sure you are smart with travel bookings. Tuesdays are known amongst the travel industry as the cheapest time to book flights. You can also opt to fly on certain days to save money on peak travel times. Ask your employer if they don’t mind you working remotely if you can fly out a day or two earlier, or take the extra time off which will pay off for your budget.
Jennifer from

Start by calculating your gift budget first. Then make a list of the people you want to buy something for during the holidays. Finally, assign the percentage or amount of your budget which you plan to spend per person. Even with a tight budget, you can get creative and still do something kind for the people you love without taking on the burden of new debt during the holidays.
Michelle from

Conscious and Creative Gift Giving

Get creative with gift giving if you need to, in order to not overspend. Examples include: baking homemade treats, homemade body treatments like scrubs, lotions etc.
– Jacquieline from Sugar and Money

Don’t feel like you have to buy people’s love or spend a lot of money to show you care or think about them during the holidays! We have a large family and draw names for Christmas. That way we don’t all feel obligated to buy everyone something. Other people like teachers, friends, neighbors we will make something. We have done snacks like chocolate coated pretzels, cookies, fudge or homemade bath bombs.
– Noe from Mr. and Mrs. Money Magnet

Think practical. Take the extra time to things about the small things that people will truly love. Sometimes these make the best presents! Creating a small handcrafted present can wow people more than buying a new, fancy electronic. Stay persona and never go outside your budgeting boundaries and definitely never take on new debt to finance Christmas present purchases.
– Kyle from Millionaire Mob

Don’t throw away those $10- or $15-off coupons! Whenever you receive one of these coupons during the year, think ahead to your Christmas list and use those $10- or $15-off coupons to purchase gifts throughout the year. This is especially helpful when you don’t have a minimum amount needed to spend to get the savings. You can purchase many small gifts with these coupons and not spend a penny. Not only will this allow you to save or purchase gifts for little money, but your holiday shopping will be done before you know it.
– Chris from Financial Adventure

Choose one item for each person on your list, and really put some thought into it. What’s something they’ve really wanted to try or something that’s really important to them (that’s still within your budget)? This is also your chance to really stretch your friendship skills and try and remember little hints they’ve left about things they like. For example, one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever gotten was a mug with a map of Alaska on it, and a little heart over the city of Fairbanks. I only mentioned to this friend once that I lived there, and really miss it. That’s why it meant so much to me that she remembered – far beyond the price of the mug, which was probably just $5. Your friends and family will be much happier with a cheaper, well-thought-out gift.
-Lindsay from

Make Memories

Focus on creating a family experience tradition. Take the family to the mountains to play in the snow, go the grandparents’ home and host a trivia show down, go with your friends and volunteer at a neighboorhood soup kitchen, etc. Just take away any reason to spend, and treat the holiday like a celebration of friendship, family, and time.
– Winnie from Sun Group Wealth Partners

It’s Okay to Say No

It can help to cut back on the number of people you give to, especially if you don’t know them well enough to give them something beyond a generic mug/candle/Starbucks gift card type item. They won’t miss a gift from you, and no one needs yet another mug. Give yourself and your wallet a break by writing a sincere thank you note if you want to show appreciation.
– Jackie from

Prioritize your shopping based on available funds.  In lean years, the mail carrier, crossing guard, school principal, great-great aunt Mary, etc. don’t get more than a card.  That way, the cash in hand can be used for those in your inner circle. In more prosperous years, you can open up your gift giving circle to include more folks.
– Laura from Everyday By The Lake