How Not To Go Into Debt This Holiday Season

Chances are if you went into debt during the holiday season last year, you’ll probably be going into debt again this year. There’s a lot of pressure put upon us to spend each holiday season and it’s near impossible to avoid it. Then again, maybe not.

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According to these CNBC articles (click here):

It’s not just gifts to friends and family. Participants in a survey from the personal finance website said they felt pressure to overspend on travel, hosting holiday parties and donating to charity. Bankrate surveyed 2,628 adults in October to get their perspective on gift-giving and spending.

The resistance may be just as real. Nearly half of gift-givers in the survey said they’re willing to break ranks with traditional, pull-out-all-the-stops spending.

Strategies people are willing to embrace: About a quarter (24%) are willing to regift, 19% say they’d buy secondhand items and a few (16%) say they’d consider giving up gift-giving altogether.

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Is this your holiday future?

I fall in to the lowest percentage, as per the survey. I’m part of the 16% that has given up on gift-giving altogether! For the last five years or so my immediate family and myself have stopped all gift-giving to each other, except to the kids. Even at that, we set a limit on toys or gifts to the children at $25 each. All of us were sick and tired of spending money we really didn’t have (nor saved for) and putting ourselves in financial risk. When you seriously think about it, buying gifts that people don’t need nor want and giving them to people who don’t need nor want them is insane. That’s really NOT what Christmas is all about. For us, the holiday seasons boil down to time and quality of life. Spending time with each other, sharing each other’s company, enjoying a meal together is really what the holiday season is all about, to us. Once we got over the pressure to buy things we relaxed and have enjoyed our holidays together much, much more ever since.

You may be under pressure at work to buy into their Secret Santa gift exchange. You may be under pressure to spend money at your favorite club or at school. You may be obligated to attend social parties or even be pressured into being a host or hostess yourself. There may be no way you can get out of any of these obligations. You may be pressured to just spend, spend, spend money you don’t have and never will. You may be forced to put these expenses on a charge card and it may take you years to pay them off. You might be able to gift home made crafts or gourmet foods as a means of cutting down on costs. Either way, however, it’s going to cost you something.

It may be difficult for you to do, but just say ‘NO’. Plain and simple. I did it. I said no. I probably lost a few friends along the way and infuriated a family member or two but I say BUNK! I care more about my financial bottom line and avoiding financial ruin at all costs than a person’s emotional feelings. I don’t even send out holiday cards anymore because it is just too darn expensive. I send free holiday emails instead.

Take a free walk in a mall to take in the holiday sights or to visit Santa. Just leave your charge cards at home!

There are plenty of free things for you and your family to do over this holiday season. There are tree lightings, caroling, parades, outdoor ice skating, Christmas pageants, concerts, fairs and sleigh rides. Some free events even have a visit or two from Santa Claus and his faithful elves. Many shops have lovely window displays all visible for you to enjoy, for free. Better yet, go to a mall and take in the sights. Just leave your charge cards at home. Give the free gift of your time to your friends and family. Enjoy a free holiday movie at home. Serve up a hot chocolate complete with whipped creme and peppermint candy canes. Pop up some popcorn. Bake a home-made pizza.

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Check out your local town listings: chances are there’s a free WinterFest near you. Have fun!

Whatever you decide to do or not do, keep a special eye on your personal financial bottom line. You may be in the holiday spirit right now but trust me, come January or February (or March or April et cetera) your spirit may be down in the dumps. Realistically, it’s just not worth going in to debt or spending money you don’t have to bring a temporary smile of joy to anyone’s face.




  1. This is the first Christmas I won’t be doing a gift exchange with my kids. My gift is visiting them. I will be taking them a small stocking of silly things because they have always enjoyed those, but no “stuff”. As for work, it’s my first year at this job and I do enjoy Secret Santa & the White Elephant exchange. Thankfully the spending caps are very low. As I have gotten older (and a bit wiser hopefully), I prefer experiences over stuff. My plan is to have a budget, use the cash envelope system and STICK TO IT!! Great post! I love your blog.


  2. Yes, yes and yes! (As I was reading I was agreeing with you. 🙂 )

    This year I’ve cut holiday spending by 75%. HUGE deal. I have enough gifts for everyone to feel special, without going over board or breaking the bank. My decorating is minimal as well. BUT, Christmas Eve we will all gather and share an Italian feast and enjoy each others’ company. Besides, who remembers what gift they got for Christmas? They will remember what they ate! lol


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