Celebrate in style and avoid the holiday debt trap

Avoiding Holiday Debt

by Shaunna Privratsky


Related Articles

10 Steps to Zap Holiday Stress

Best Christmas Ever

7 Tips to a Debt Free Holiday Season

Every year, we vow to stick to a holiday budget. And every year, we blow it like Santa after a thirty-six hour no-cookie diet. We dread the holiday bills, the overdraft fees and the last minute trips to the mall that empty our wallets and rack up the credit card charges.

Take charge of your holiday budgeting! By planning ahead, you can celebrate the season in style without ending up in debt. Here are ways to curb spending and stay on track.

  • The first step is to plan your budget. Make sure you include all those little extras like decorations, extra postage, the kids' holiday outfits, family photos and entertaining costs.

  • Now list all the people you want to buy presents for. Jot down any ideas you may have.

  • Shop early for the best selection. Tackle the out of town list first, so that you can ship presents early. The earlier you send, the cheaper the rates.

  • Shop like Scrooge. Have a plan before you step foot in a store. Call around for the best deal on popular items or must-have electronics. Often, a phone call can save you money and wasted time.

  • Combine and conquer. If you and your brother never know what to get Mom and Dad, pool your resources and get them one nice item together.

  • The hat trick. Large families have practiced this for years, but it is still a great idea. Draw names, so each person is only in charge of one present.

  • You may want to set a monetary limit to keep things fair and equal, especially with younger children.

  • Speaking of kids, have them each list one to three items they desire. A good rule to follow is: one gift they really need, one gift they really want and one educational gift like computer games or books. With all the other presents from friends and family members, they won't be deprived.

  • Okay, let's say your budget is getting pretty thin. It is better to withdraw money from savings, that earns about 3% - 4%, rather than putting it on an 18% to 29% credit card, unless you know you can pay the bill in full in January.

  • Avoid debt altogether by shopping all through the year. Keep your eyes open at garage sales, thrift stores, or clearance racks for those one-of-a-kind gifts that would be perfect for someone on your list. When December rolls around, you will only have to wrap and send your frugal find.

  • Give the gift of time. It doesn't cost a cent to make up coupons for things like a backrub at the end of a stressful day, an offer to pick up the dry cleaning, a special movie night, a dinner out or other treats for friends and loved ones. You could even make a coupon book, one for each month.

  • Shop the after-Christmas sales. The stores are anxious to sell and will discount decorations, wrap, gifts, toys, trees and other holiday items at huge savings. You can stock up on dishes, napkins, food items and even clothing at up to 90% discounts. You can often find gifts for other holidays as well, like birthdays, Mother's Day, and even Valentine's Day.

This year, you can look forward to the holidays. By sticking to your plan, you will cherish the special moments instead of worrying over bills and escalating interest rates. You can look ahead to the new year with joy when you ho ho hold holiday debt.


Shaunna Privratsky is an expert in personal finance. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

Take the Next Step:

  • Take charge of your holiday budgeting! By planning ahead, you can celebrate the season in style without ending up in debt. Try one or more of these ideas to curb spending and stay on track.
  • Having a large family Christmas gathering this year? Visit The Dollar Stretcher Community Forum to get some great ideas that are fun and will help to keep your Christmas budget on track.
  • Budgeting Made Easy! Visit spendtrackerusa.com. Exclusive Dollar Stretcher readers' discount: $5 OFF (use coupon code: STRETCH5)
  • For more information on budgets, visit The Dollar Stretcher Library

Discuss a "Debt Freeze" with other Dollar Stretchers in The Dollar Stretcher Community

Stay Connected with TDS





Subscribe to TDS Newsletters

Join over 250,000 other subscribers!

Join Fido!

Discounted movie tickets
Sign up for Savvy Savings at TDS and get a free membership for discounted movie tickets!

Your Email:


Surviving Tough Times
Dollar Stretcher Parents
Dollar Stretcher Tips
The Dollar Stretcher (text-based)
Financial Independence
The Computer Lady
Computer Lady Lessons
Healthy Foods

Your Email:


View the TDS Privacy Policy.