Is It Beginning to Look Like a Cash-Strapped Christmas?

by Chantal King
Cash-Strapped Christmas Tips photo

Conquer a cash-strapped Christmas with these tips for those on a tight budget, and you’ll be debt-free when you welcome in the New Year.

Credit cards straining the limit, over-due bills, pricey “must-have” gifts, the latest electronic gadgets on everyone’s lists

Wait a minute! Isn’t this supposed to be the joyous holiday season? Learn to budget for the holidays and everyone will have a reason to celebrate.

Sometimes the thought of being practical about money goes against our wishes to be generous. Yet wouldn’t our family and friends be happier if we lived within our means? Remember that it truly is the thought that counts, not the high-priced tag.

Is your budget already maxed out?

The first step is to take a look at your budget. If you don’t have one, now is the perfect time to start. List all your monthly income in one column. Now list all your bills in another column from your mortgage payment, heat, water, electricity, and phone bills to the $6.50 you spend on lunch each workday.

Subtract the smaller total from the larger. But, there is the rub! What if your expenses meet or exceed your income? Now you have to put the holiday gifts on your nearly maxed-out credit cards.

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Cut expenses and control spending now so you can avoid holiday debt later

Stop! Go back to your expenses and cut out whatever you can to free up some ready cash.

Consolidate credit card debt

Consolidate three or four high-interest cards on one 0% interest card, and don’t charge more on it. Just keep paying more than the minimum payment to eventually eliminate your credit card debt.

Some 0% interest offers last for only six to eight months. Others 12 to 18 months. Either way, be sure you transfer or pay off the balance before the rates rise.

You can compare balance transfer cards here.

Pay cash whenever possible

When paying cash, it is much harder to overspend. When you run out of bills, it is time to go home.

Plan what you will purchase before you go shopping

Look through ads, watch commercials, and even call ahead to make sure the item you want is still available. Most stores will even set it aside for you at the courtesy counter, saving time and hassles.

Compare prices

Often, the same “hot” item is much cheaper elsewhere or comes with a better incentive offer.

For example, a new game I wanted to purchase for my daughter was a couple of dollars cheaper at Walmart, but Target offered a free $20 gift card with purchase, so it ended up being a better deal. Now, I have two gifts instead of one!

Debt trouble? We can help.

If circumstances have put your family in debt, we can help you create a plan for conquering it. One that is personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle.

Set aside a little money each month in a special holiday fund

Some companies will direct deposit a percentage of your paycheck for you, so you won’t even miss the savings. Even $50-$75 a month can really add up!

Make your own gifts to stretch your gift-giving dollars

Consider making food baskets, cookie trays, craft items, etc. Use your imagination.

Your thoughtful gift will be appreciated much more than a high-priced but useless gift that just sits in the closet or gets returned the next day.

Start planning for next year

Speaking of the day after Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate, that is the time to start planning for next year. You will likely have a similar gift list, so shop all the after-Christmas clearance sales for terrific bargains.

Freeze candy and food items to assure freshness. Many wonderful gifts are half-priced or more for a quick way to save on next year’s gift giving.

Keep your eyes open all through the year. Shop second-hand and thrift stores, garage sales, and eBay and craigslist for unique gifts for that hard to buy for person on your list. Cruise the clearance tables, racks, and sections for gifts that only look expensive.

Think how happy you will be when the holidays are over, everyone has gone home, and you realize you don’t have any outstanding bills.

Conquer a cash-strapped Christmas by giving yourself the gift of a holiday budget, and you’ll be debt-free when you welcome in the New Year.

Reviewed August 2021

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