9 Super Secrets to Staying Debt-free This Christmas

Is your budget bursting like the buttons on Santa’s coat? Is swiping your credit card making your anxiety run high? Holiday spending is a major cause of stress. It is easy to get caught up in all the gift giving and Holiday activities that we live in the moment and forget the Holidays can spin us into a whirlwind of debt.

The best way to curb the anxiety is to create a plan. If you make a budget and check it twice, you are bound to have a stress free Holiday Season with visions of a debt-free life dancing in your head.

According to an annual study conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics people plan to spend an average of $967.13  which is up about 3.4% from last year (source National Retail Federation). Not to mention, 56% of Americans plan on going into debt for the Holidays and although many realize how important a budget is 58% of families fail to stay on budget. (source: The Motley Fool).  Spending $967.13  is a HUGE chunk of change, especially if you are already struggling financially.

Many are tempted to dip into their emergency fund or retirement account or open a credit card to make ends meet during the Holiday Season. This is a bad idea all around. Your emergency fund should be used only when NEEDED and using a credit card only guarantees you will pay way more because of interest. Since going into debt this Holiday season is not an option,  I’m going to give you some jingly-good ideas to help save your budget and still have a nice Christmas or any Holiday you celebrate.

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9 Best Holiday Budget Tips

No Christmas debt

Although going into debt for the Holidays is as easy as eating grandma’s apple pie, I have nine sure-fire ways to help you stick to a budget and leave your Christmas Debt a tale of old! Creating a budget is key and keep in mind you can only spend what you have! Don’t go out and charge all of the items in Santa’s toy shop! Stick to your plan and you will find the Holidays much more enjoyable this year because you will avoid the stress of debt.

1. Set a Budget – First, create a budget. Determine how much extra money you have to spend and this will be your starting amount to set aside for gifts. For example, if you have $400 extra saved, this will be your starting budget amount. I recommend setting aside a little all year so you don’t have to fork out a huge chunk of change during the Holidays.

However, if you did not plan ahead this year that is okay, but keep this in mind for next year. Take a look at how much you can afford and divide your money up among the people on your list.  After you complete your gift budget add gift ideas that are in your price range and find gift guides that have already done the work for you. There are so many budget gift guides out there that you need not look far or spend too much of your time. Here are a few to get you going:

Example of a Christmas Budget:

Budget: $400

Person (Put the most expensive gifts first)        Amount                            Gift

Spouse                                                                      $100                               New DVD Player, Socks, Coat

Kid one                                                                      $60                                  Lego set, art supplies, pajamas, books

Kid two                                                                      $60                                  Lego set, art supplies, pajamas, books

Teacher Gift                                                               $25                                  Gift card

Sister                                                                          $50                                 Gift card

Friend                                                                         $25                                  Lotion Set

Holiday Food                                                              $40                                  Waffle mix, eggs, ham, sides

Wrapping                                                                    $10                                  dollar store bags and paper

Christmas Cards                                                         $30                                  cards/stamps

Total:                                                                           $400

When creating your Holiday budget, don’t forget to include all of the extras like gift wrapping (or make your own if you want to save), Christmas cards, and extra food if you are expecting guests or need to bring a dish to pass. These small things add up, especially if you are randomly buying items without a budget.

Tip: My best tip for buying wrapping paper is to shop after Christmas when it is 75% off or buy it at the dollar store (however, it may not be the best quality but who cares, it is ripped up and thrown away!)

Get Your Free Pretty Christmas Budget Planner Here: Christmas Budget Planner PDF

Suggested Reading: Budgets 2017 – New Year, New Budget

Suggested Reading: 7 Common Money Mistakes and How to Fix Them

2. Side Hustle – Start a side hustle for the Holidays. My side earnings this year come from Pinecone Research, Poshmark, and Ibotta. I have made around $350 between the three and I have been saving my earnings specifically for Christmas presents. If you do not have time to side hustle consider taking on a babysitting, house sitting, or dog sitting job before the Holidays to earn some extra cash.

Tip: Try the side hustles listed below and start saving your earnings for next year.

Pinecone ResearchPinecone is my all-time favorite of all the survey companies. Pinecone research is a market company that pays $3 per survey, most taking around 20 minutes to complete. They also have higher paying surveys and I have made up to $10 for one longer survey that took around 40 minutes. This is the company I have made the most money using; however, they close their survey sign-ups for long periods of time, so sign up now because it is currently open. Sign up for Pinecone Research and start earning!

Ibotta Ibotta is an awesome money-saving app that allows you to receive rebates for stuff you already buy. All you have to do is find your store and search the available rebates for that week. Once you find your rebates, start shopping. Next, submit your receipt by taking a picture. I suggest doing this right when you get home from the store so you do not forget. It is as easy as taking a simple picture and clicking your rebates! Ibotta has recently added some online shopping to their app as well, so you have more options. Use my link and receive a $10 sign up bonus when you redeem your first rebate! Read more about Ibotta here: Ibotta, Awesome Rebate and Money Making App.

3. Avoid Advertising – Avoid advertising at all cost.  Advertising works best this time of the year. If you are watching your favorite show (mine being a cross between Real Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy) then you have already seen all of the Christmas Commercials. I saw one for the GAP this morning and it was very enticing. I could not turn away. These big stores know what you want before you do! So if possible, DVR your shows or watch them on your phone (like me) and just ignore the commercials. Another option is to get up during the commercials and do your housework. My dishes and laundry folding are done during commercial time!

Suggested Reading: Say Goodbye to Impulse Buys

4. Free Activities – One thing that can hurt your budget is participating in fun Holiday activities. Yet, there are so many free things to do during the Holidays that your dreams of a debt-free Christmas need not be shattered. For instance, we enjoy the city tree lighting, which by the way, does not cost a thing.

So if there is something that you really want to do that costs money, pick one thing and have that be your paid activity. Then make the rest of your Holiday family activities FREE. We are planning on taking out kids on a Christmas train and Holiday village this year. This is a fun event we participated last year and the kids LOVED it. We will pay for this but the rest of our Holiday activities will be free. One thing we will be doing is visiting Santa at our local farmer’s market where you can take your own pictures.

Suggested Reading: Fee fun Christmas/Holiday Activities

Debt-Free Holidays

5. Homemade Gifts – If your budget is small, consider making your gifts this year. I have found many articles on Pinterest showcasing how to make homemade soaps and candles among other items. These make great, thoughtful gifts. Here are a few of my favorites:

6. Know how to shop the sales – Although Black Friday is a crazy shopping day I try to avoid, I do take advantage of some of the sales. Especially if it is something I was going to buy anyway. I know I said stay away from advertising but I do think it helps to check the flyers for the big sales and make a plan. Just make sure you are scoring sales on items you were already planning on buying. For example, I was going to buy grandma a pair of slippers for Christmas (this has been a tradition for years) and I see they are listed on Target’s Black Friday sale as well as kid’s pajamas (which my son needs – the best kind of gift) so I will order them online and score amazing deals black Friday morning (don’t wait because items sell out quickly).

I have a few other items I will be purchasing from Target (check out their sales here) and I take advantage of my REDcard (Save 5% and get Free Shipping at Target – Apply for a REDcard ) because I get free shipping and 5% off everything I buy there.

Tip: Target has free shipping for everyone until right before Christmas so take advantage and avoid the crowds!

Tip: Many stores offer the same deals online with exception to the doorbusters so check your store flyers. The best strategy is to create a plan and stick to it. Do not buy a bunch of stuff on Black Friday just because it is on sale. Be disciplined and stick to your gift list. Only make purchases you were going to buy anyway.

Suggested Reading:Money-Saving Secrets to Dramatically Slash Your Grocery Bill

7. Set a Limit – If money is tight consider doing a small gift with your significant other or spouse. They will understand and it will take off the pressure. You could set a limit of $20 and then give one homemade gift. My husband and I did this for Valentine’s Day last year and it worked out very well. I LOVED the poster he made me and he changed the lyrics to one of my favorite songs to make it sound like our son was singing it. It was so sweet and thoughtful!

8. Give a Gift card or cash – Did you know you can buy discount gift cards. There are several sites that offer this but my favorite is Cardpool. You can also sell unwanted gift cards after Christmas too.

People like cash! I used to feel like I was taking the easy way out when I gifted a gift card or cash but lately this is my go-to gift. I have gotten enough gifts that have become house clutter to know, it is better to give cash or a gift card to your loved ones so they can pick out what they want. Also, you are sure to stick to your budget when giving a gift or cash.

9. Use coupons and store matchups – I love using coupons for items that are already on sale! Check coupon sites such as Coupons.com to see if your gift items have a coupon. However, don’t do all the work. Use coupon match-up sites! My favorite is Krazy Coupon Lady but my husband’s favorite is Bargains to Bounty! Check them both out and leave me a comment on which you like the best so my husband and I can settle this once and for all.

If you find coupons for items that are on sale you end up getting double savings! You can even triple or quadruple your savings if the item is on Ebates and/or Ibotta – my two favorite rebate apps! Check them out below:

Rakuten –  Rakuten is a money-saving site that rewards you for doing something you already do: shop online. Click through Rakuten before you shop online and you will receive a percentage back of what you spent.  How it works: They make money by referring you to shop at a store and then share their commission with you. The best part is it costs you nothing. Also, they have thousands of the BEST stores to choose from including Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Priceline, Macy’s, Petco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Groupon, Amazon and so much more. Sign up using my link and receive a $10 bonus just for signing up! Read my Rakuten Money-Saving Review here.
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Ibotta Ibotta is an awesome money-saving app that allows you to receive rebates for stuff you already buy. All you have to do is find your store and search the available rebates for that week. Once you find your rebates, start shopping. Next, send your receipt by taking a picture and uploading it which is super easy. I suggest doing this right when you get home from the store so you do not forget. It is as easy as taking a simple picture and clicking your rebates! Ibotta has recently added some online shopping to their app as well, so you have more options. Use my link and receive a $10 sign up bonus when you redeem your first rebate! Read more about Ibotta here: Ibotta, Awesome Rebate and Money Making App.


These are my best Christmas budget tips. Let’s hope all of you are able to plan ahead and stick to your budget. Avoid advertising because it is so hard not to get sucked in and slip up. Homemade gifts are thoughtful and appreciated. Make your list and check it twice before black Friday to avoid going off your list because of the sales. You may even have enough money left over to pick up a few things for yourself this year. I’m dreaming of a debt-free Christmas for myself and all of you!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Take care – Sarah

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