Can you believe that the holidays are fast approaching? It seems like we were just setting New Year’s resolutions yesterday! And you better believe that after seeing my last credit card bill, one of my resolutions was to learn how to have a debt free Christmas.
Here’s the thing: while I love everything about the holidays, the one thing I absolutely hate is the amount of money that it seems we have to spend in order to have a good holiday season.
From buying plane tickets to visit our loved ones, to buying the right Christmas presents for everyone on our list, it’s nearly impossible to have a debt free Christmas. Or so you’d think!
I’m finally on track to have a debt free Christmas this year, and I’m here to show you how you can too. Follow my easy tips to learn how to have a debt free Christmas that is still as amazing as you’d hope, but won’t break the bank.
- Make a Budget for a Debt Free Christmas
- How to Save Money on Gifts for a Debt Free Christmas
- Use Discounted Gift Cards
- Get Cash Back
- Comparison Shop
- Shop Early
- Shop Online
- Price Match
- Make DIY Gifts
- Buy Inexpensive Photo Gifts
- Buy (or Make) Gifts in Bulk
- Check Groupon
- Watch for Price Drops
- Go Digital
- Find Ways to Save Money Today
- Cancel Subscriptions
- Save Money on Your Car Insurance
- Slash Your Grocery Budget by Meal Planning
- Cut the Cable
- Borrow Things Instead of Buying
- Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
- Try No Spend November
- Make Extra Money for a Debt Free Christmas
- Save Money Traveling
- Save Money on Christmas Food
- Save Money on Decor
- Use Cash For Everything
- Ready for a Debt Free Christmas?
Make a Budget for a Debt Free Christmas
I strongly believe that budgeting is the absolute best thing you can do to get your finances in order. The same principles of budgeting that apply in your normal day-to-day can be used to create a Christmas budget.
In this post we’re going to focus on a Christmas gift budget, since that’s where most of our money goes during the holidays.
P.S. To help you out even more, I’ve included extra tips, tricks and hacks to save money on holiday travel, Christmas food, and much more! Keep reading to find out all my favorite hacks 😉
Christmas Gift Budget Tutorial
When creating a Christmas budget, grab some pen and paper and get started by doing the following:
- Make a list of everyone you want to shop for;
- Set an amount of money you’re willing to spend on each person;
- Brainstorm gift ideas for each person that cost less or the same as you’re willing to spend
- Don’t forget to budget for wrapping paper
- Go shopping!
How to Save Money on Gifts for a Debt Free Christmas
Saving money on Christmas gifts always feels so tricky. You don’t want to give something that feels cheap, but at the same time you’re on a budget!
But saving money on Christmas gifts doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow the tips below to plan a debt free Christmas that starts with affordable gifts.
Use Discounted Gift Cards
Buying discounted gift cards is my absolute favorite “hack” for everything in life. You can save significant money on things you were planning to buy ANYWAY simply by looking for discounted gift card options!
Plus, you can often use gift cards with additional promo and coupon codes. It’s perfect for stacking savings on tops of savings. And you’ll find gift cards for most major retailers, Amazon included!
You can search for discounted gift cards at the following sites:
Get Cash Back
If you’re not getting cash back on your shopping you’re totally missing out. By simply shopping through an app or portal, you can get a bunch of cash back on your purchases.
This is gold when you’re shopping on a budget because it allows your dollars to stretch just a little bit further. Plus, if you stack this with a discounted gift card option, you can save some extra money.
If you want to have a debt free Christmas, sign up for the following apps and sites to get cash back on all your holiday (and everyday!) purchases. Plus, they all come with a little bonus 😉
- Ibotta: get up to a $20 sign up bonus!
- Swagbucks: get a $3 sign up bonus!
- Rakuten: get a $10 sign up bonus!
I can’t overstate the importance of comparing prices when you’re Christmas shopping. Nothing’s more frustrating than buying an item at a store only to see it someplace else for less.
You can avoid that by using Google Shopping to compare prices on products across the internet. Or use the ShopSavvy app on your phone.
The early bird gets the worm, and the early shopper definitely gets the discount! Planning your shopping in advance can save you money on shipping costs (no need to pay for rush shipping), and can help you take advantage of sales.
Depending on what you’re buying (and from where), shopping online can save you a lot of money. Once you’ve made your gift list and budget, head over to the appropriate store and shop there. You can often use coupon codes online that aren’t available in store.
Of course the king of online shopping is Amazon. If you have a Prime membership you can get free 2-day shipping (and 1-day shipping) on thousands of items.
If you don’t have a Prime membership, what are you waiting for? You can get a FREE 30 day trial. Sign up for a free Amazon Prime trial here!
Sometimes you just have to shop in store. If I’m at Target and I see the things on my Christmas list, I’m just going to reach for it and add it to my cart. In those situations, I’ll open up the Amazon app on my phone and see if it sells for cheaper on Amazon.
If it does, I take advantage of Target’s price match policy and save some money easily! This is also an easy tip to follow if you’re doing some last minute shopping and don’t have time to wait for a product to ship from Amazon.
The following retailers price match Amazon:
- Best Buy
- JC Penny (plus additional 5% off)
- Home Depot (plus additional 10% off)
Make DIY Gifts
You can save money on gifts by simply making your own. The beautiful thing about DIY gifts is the amount of thought and creativity that goes into them.
Because of this, you can make some really affordable gifts that are thoughtful and will be a hit.
Buy Inexpensive Photo Gifts
I absolutely LOVE giving photo gifts! These are a perfect way to give a thoughtful, inexpensive gift that contains tons of memories.
These make great gifts for your mom, sister, or best friend. Gather your favorite pictures of y’all and put them together into a photo book they’re sure to love.
Buy (or Make) Gifts in Bulk
One of the best money saving tips I’ve learned is from one of my mom friends with young children. She buys all of her gifts in bulk and keeps them on hand to use for every birthday party they get invited to.
This same idea is applicable to Christmas gifts. If you have a lot of people on your list (like coworkers teachers, etc) you can batch buy or make some gifts to distribute.
A great place to find some inexpensive gifts or experiences is Groupon. You can find deals for massages, local restaurants, flowers, yoga classes and so much more.
I love gifting activities, since the memories will last way longer than any toy. Bonus points if the activity is for something for you and the gift receiver to do together.
Watch for Price Drops
It’s so annoying when you buy something only for the price to drop a few days or weeks later. While several stores offer price adjustments, the best way to watch for these is to automate them.
Download an app like Paribus and get refunded the price difference effortlessly.
Holiday cards are the cutest, but they can be pricey. Consider sending out a digital Christmas card to your list, or posting your card on Instagram for your family to see and enjoy.
Find Ways to Save Money Today
Of course the best way to have a debt free Christmas is to plan and save for it in advance. Below are some simple, practical things you can start doing today to start saving money – and put towards your Christmas budget for a debt free Christmas!
Now is the perfect time to cancel or pause your subscriptions. Go through your bank statements and make a list of every recurring charge. Tally up the amount for each one to see just how much you could save if you canceled the subscription (even for a little bit).
You can use that money towards ensuring you have a debt free Christmas and then start it back up again after the holidays if you truly need it.
Save Money on Your Car Insurance
When’s the last time you shopped for car insurance? If it’s been a while, you’re probably overpaying. I like to shop for my car insurance every couple of months.
The easiest and most efficient way to shop for cheaper car insurance is to use a site like Gabi. I love Gabi because it pulls insurance quotes that are an apples-to-apples comparison to your current policy. Not to mention, it compares prices for a bunch of different insurance companies so I don’t have to do it manually.
You could save HUNDREDS of dollars on your car insurance by signing up for Gabi! Imagine what you could do with that money!
Slash Your Grocery Budget by Meal Planning
You can save a lot of money on food simply by cooking more meals at home. Meal planning is key if you’re trying to slash your grocery store budget but don’t know how. Get started meal planning by checking out the following:
Cut the Cable
If you’re still paying for cable this is a great place to cut back. Ditch the cable and save yourself an extra $50 every month. Or if you’re not quite ready to cut the cable all together, call your cable company and negotiate your rate. The savings are worth it.
Borrow Things Instead of Buying
How many times have you bought something to only end up using it once? Maybe it’s a staple gun for an amazing craft project, or a kitchen tool we think we absolutely need.
But here’s the thing, continuing to buy these one off items costs us money AND adds clutter to our house. Start borrowing things instead of buying them outright and save some money while you’re at it.
Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
How much are you paying on your cell phone bill? Is it over $100? Over $200? That’s too much! Call your cell phone carrier and ask them to renegotiate your rate. If they won’t budget, now is a good time of the year to consider switching carriers. Shop around!
Try No Spend November
A great way to save money right before Christmas is to have a no-spend month. During a no spend month, you preselect some categories that you don’t spend money on.
An easy example would be clothes, shoes, and eating out. Doing a no spend November is a great way to save some money right before the holidays.
Plus, you’ll be more motivated to stick to your no spend goal if you have all that Christmas shopping to look forward to.
Make Extra Money for a Debt Free Christmas
If you’ve implemented the tips above and still need to find ways to make money to pay for all your Christmas expense, it’s probably time to start finding ways to make extra money for the holidays.
Sell Your Stuff
Make some extra cash by decluttering your house and selling the things you no longer need. A couple of things you can sell are:
- Old electronics
List your stuff on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, or Mercari.
Make Money by Taking Surveys
Did you know that you can make money by taking surveys online? It’s an easy way to make a few extra bucks for the holidays. There’s several online survey sites out there, but I really like Swagbucks.
Plus, when you get started you can get a $3 bonus. Sign up for Swagbucks here.
Hang Out with Dogs
An easy and fun way to make some quick money is to walk dogs or petsit for people who need it. You can make some easy cash and get to spend time hanging out with cute pets. What more could you really ask for?
If you like kids, you can look into babysitting a couple of times before the holidays. You can easily make $15+ an hour as a babysitter. To get started, post some flyers around your neighborhood, or sign up for Care.com to connect with families needing help.
An easy way to make some quick cash is to sign up to deliver food with a company like DoorDash or Postmates. People are ordering takeout all the time, and delivering their food is a good way to make some extra money for a debt free Christmas quickly.
Get a Part Time Job
Yes, I know the last thing you probably want to do is get a part time job. But hear me out! If you want to have a debt free Christmas and find that you STILL need extra money after cutting your expenses and budgeting, you should consider doing some seasonal work.
Look at retail stores. They’re much more likely to need an extra pair of hands during the holidays. Plus, they’re likely to have availability during nights and weekends.
Save Money Traveling
Traveling during the holiday season can be exhausting and expense. Below are a couple of ideas to save you money on your holiday travel.
Cheap Plane Tickets
I hate to break it to you, but buying plane tickets during the holidays is going to be expensive. In order to maximize your savings, and minimize the amount you spend, make sure that you buy your tickets early. Set up a price alert with google flights and monitor the tickets you want to wait, but don’t hesitate to buy when they’re at a decent price!
Some other tips:
- Drive or take the train if you can. It’s often cheaper!
- Take a redeye or early morning flight to save money.
- Fly on the actual holiday. Often flights are cheaper on these dates.
Use Your Points
A greta time of the year to use your credit card points and miles is during the holidays. Check to see if there are any good redemptions and use those points to pay for your trip.
If you want a beginner’s guide to travel hacking, check out this post. Maybe you’ll get inspired and choose to travel hack your holidays to spend them in Hawaii!
Ship Your Presents
Checked bag fees are ridiculous. If you have a lot of presents that you’re bringing with you, consider shipping them in advance to your destination. Or better yet, schedule an Amazon delivery of your presents and supplies. You’ll save money by not having to check your bags, and the stress of traveling with your gifts.
Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
No one should pay for overpriced bottles of water at the airport. To avoid this, bring an empty reusable water bottle through TSA and fill it up once you make it past security.
Along the same lines of not paying for water at the airport, don’t pay for overpriced snacks either! Pack some solid snacks, like nuts, granola bars, or dried fruit in your carryon and save money on airport food.
Save Money on Christmas Food
Our big family traditions include making a TON of food during the holidays for our Christmas Eve party. While I love cooking, decorating and prepping, it can get expensive really quick.
To combat this, I use a couple of simple tricks to help me save money. Keep reading below to get my favorite tips and tricks to help you save a buck or two on Christmas food.
I can’t recommend Ibotta enough. In case you’re not familiar with it, Ibotta is an app that gives you cash back for uploading your receipts. if you bought one of the items that Ibotta has an offer for, you get cash back!
I love using Ibotta every time I go grocery shopping, and the holidays are no exception. You can save a lot of money by simply uploading your receipts and buying the things you’d normally buy.
Plus, you can get started with up to a $20 welcome bonus. Sign up for Ibotta here.
Coupons are an incredible way to save money easily on food. By stacking coupons, cash back offers and promotions you could even get some of your items for free!
Search for coupons online on sites like coupons.com, and download your store’s app. You can often find coupons or offers directly on the app.
Have a Pot Luck
An easy way to cut down on your food expenses during the holidays is to host a Christmas potluck party where everyone brings something. This way, you’re not on the hook for buying and cooking all that Christmas food.
Buy Alcohol at Costco
If you’re buying alcohol during the holidays consider shopping at Costco. In a lot of states (like California, Texas, and Indiana to name a few) you don’t need a membership in order to buy alcohol at Costco. You can save a lot of money if you buy the Kirkland brand at Costco, so why not check it out?
The concept of zero waste is simple: you try to reuse and reduce the amount of waste that you create. This means doing things like using regular plates instead of disposable ones, or cutting out paper towels in favor of rags.
This holiday season, you can go zero waste by using reusable tableware, using cloth napkins, and using cloth to wrap your papers. You can get creative, and save money at the same time!
Save Money on Decor
Who isn’t a sucker for pretty Christmas decor? I spend HOURS on Pinterest saving my favorite holiday decor ideas, and I KNOW I’m not the only one who does that! But decorating for the holidays can get expensive quick. Change that, by following some easy tips.
Save Money on Your Tree
Did you know that you can buy live Christmas trees at Costco? We’ve gotten Christmas trees at Costco before and they’re so much cheaper than buying it from a tree farm.
You could also use an artificial tree year after year, or get creative with your “tree” as well. Check out this post for pretty Christmas Tree alternatives.
Focus on Low or Zero Cost Activities
It’s so easy to spend a bunch of money on activities during the holidays. But the holidays isn’t about how much you spend, it’s about spending time and creating memories with your loved ones. A great way to do that is to focus on free activities.
Some examples include making your own ornaments, going Christmas caroling, or baking as a family. Get creative!
Use Cash For Everything
There’s so many benefits to using cash, namely the fact that you’ll be much more likely to stick to your budget and spend less money! Studies have shown that parting with cash is difficult for people. I mean, think about it. When you use a credit card you’re not SEEING the money leave your hands. That changes when you have to hand cash over.
If you already know and love the cash envelope system, get some pretty cash envelopes specifically for the holidays while you’re at it to make it a bit more fun and pretty to budget!
Ready for a Debt Free Christmas?
I hope by now you’ve seen that it’s totally possible to have a debt free Christmas. With a little bit of planning and some creative thinking, you can save money during the holidays and not wreck your budget. After all, the last thing you want is to wake up on January 1st to a giant pile of debt!
What are your favorite tips for a debt free Christmas? Let me know in the comments!