How to Stay Debt-Free Over the Holidays
It’s not easy to resist the spending frenzy that happens every holiday season. There are always new toys, clothes and jewelry to buy. Advertisers make most everything look irresistible. Our culture is full of “buy now, pay later” rationalizations. That’s why so many families find themselves in debt, and in mourning, come January of the new year. Here are some ways to opt out of over-consuming and stay debt-free instead.
Sell some stuff.
Take an inventory around the house. This includes dresser drawers, closets and anywhere you store things to be used later.
Do you have goods or items you haven’t used in the past year?
This can include sporting equipment, shoes, clothes, or jewelry. Consider selling these items in a yard sale or online marketplace. The extra money comes in handy so you can buy things you’ll actually use.
Review your budget or create a new one.
Creating a budget with your kids is a great family activity. The math and logic helps students avoid learning loss over winter break. It also teaches them fiscal responsibility. They learn about earning and spending as well.
Determine how much money you can pull from certain categories. Cutting back in some areas means you can spend more in others. For instance, maybe you set aside money for gas and tolls but won’t be using the car as much this month. Put those funds into a gift-giving category.
Once you create a budget that is reasonable – stick to it. That’s one fool-proof way to stay debt-free: don’t deviate from your budget. Teach your kids that whatever you spend has to come from somewhere. This will help them learn the value of budgeting for themselves as they get older.
In addition to money for gifts, include in your budget how much you plan to spend on holiday decorations, shipping, food, travel and entertainment.
Avoid expensive travel costs.
Don’t wait until the last minute to book your flight, hotel or rental car. This makes an already expensive endeavor even more so. Plan ahead of time.
And stay flexible.
For starters, early morning flights cost less than flights in the middle of the day. Staying with friends and family is cheaper than a hotel. And try public transit or sharing a ride with loved ones at your destination instead of renting a car.
Look for deals and special offers.
Again, it helps to start early. This holds true when shopping as well as anything else you do to stay debt-free. Make a gift list and look for discounts online.
For example, try marketplaces on social media. eBay and other sites might have great deals on your favorite items.
Create a spreadsheet to compare prices.
And don’t forget to search for coupon codes. Enter the codes at checkout to save even more money.
Join any and all rewards programs.
If you have to use credit cards, make sure you get points to use toward discounted travel costs. Points add up and pretty soon you’ll enjoy free nights for hotel rooms. You can also use them for less expensive air fares.
Be sure to pay off those credit cards as soon as possible. You don’t want interest rates to outweigh the value of accumulated points.
Most companies also have rewards programs. The more you buy, the more points you accrue. This will lead to discounted and free goods from companies you already use. You can also redeem points for gift cards. They can be used around the holiday season to save money that way, too.
Make fiscal responsibility a family thing.
Get your kids in on the action. Teach them the value of living debt-free. Model a lifestyle of saving money and living within (or even below) your means. These are topics that aren’t covered in school but should be required learning for anyone.
Talk about what you all want to do as a family.
For example, do you all want to take a trip together next year? Some families prefer memories or experiences over things. Discuss it together and talk about what it costs to do this responsibly.
Other families decide on limits.
For example, each person decides on only three gifts each. Set a dollar amount. Each family member pledges not to go over that amount.
You also might want to consider drawing names out of a hat. Each person gets one special gift from one family member.
The rest of the gift budget can go into an account for a vacation. Or you can choose a gift the whole family will use and enjoy.
Take advantage of free or discounted events.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot to have fun in your hometown.
Many local museums, theme parks, and zoos have special deals around the holidays. So do theaters and aquariums. Look them up online and discover student or resident discounts.
Make a list and check it twice.
Santa isn’t the only one who should keep track of who is getting what this year. Make your own list and include everyone to whom you’re giving a gift.
Consider also including a column with different prices so you can comparison shop.
Plan ahead for next year.
After the holidays, many retailers mark down prices to an unbelievable level. If you have any extra funds, save a lot by purchasing these items now for next year.
This includes cards, wrapping paper, decorations and more.
Make holiday parties and meals a group effort.
Hosting fun parties for family and friends is a wonderful holiday experience. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.
Create a guest list.
Invite those who will attend to make a dish. Some can even bring dessert or beverages. This allows everyone to feel like they’re a part of the experience. And no one is saddled with funding the entire event.
In conclusion, enjoying the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to go into debt. Follow our tips instead. Staying debt-free will make for an enjoyable season and a better new year.