Happy woman Christmas shopping and looking at a window carrying bags
If you’re the type of person who’s used to putting Christmas presents on a credit card, make this year a turning point. Instead of paying off Santa’s balance weeks later, commit to a debt-free holiday. Read our tips below to make it happen.

Give Less

This suggestion may horrify some people. The holidays are a time of fellowship and generosity – how can I possibly suggest you give less?

If being generous to your neighbors, coworkers and family members is hurting you financially, you need to reevaluate that kind streak. When you’re charging presents to a credit card with high interest rates, you’re only punishing yourself. No one wants you to go into debt over their gifts, and any pressure you feel is probably self-imposed.

If you suggest that everyone cut back on gift-giving together, you won’t look like a Scrooge. Many of your loved ones are probably feeling as overwhelmed as you are, but reluctant to say anything.

Offer to cook a holiday meal or host a winter-themed movie night complete with snacks. Most of us just want to be together during the holidays; the gifts are an afterthought.

Many families already cut back on gifts for adults or set up exchanges so people only have to buy gifts for one other person. Find what will work for you and your family.

Create a Budget

One of the biggest reasons that people go into debt during the holiday season is that they spend more than they imagined. Most of us forget how quickly Christmas presents, office gift exchanges and potlucks add up. That doesn’t even include the cost of traveling over the holidays when prices are inflated.

If you don’t want to end up with a frustrating heap of credit card bills, start planning now. Make a list of which holiday obligations you can’t miss and which you can cut. Give yourself a price list for how much every trip home, every white elephant gift and every stocking stuffer will cost. Then, and this is the important part, you need to stick to that price.

If you’re going shopping, take out how much you can spend in cash. That way, you’ll know when you run out of money in no uncertain terms. Give yourself a reward for sticking to your budget, like tickets to a show or a new holiday outfit.

Find Hacks

There are ways to buy presents on a credit card while also getting something back. Lots of cards offer cash bonuses if you spend a certain amount within 90 days. This is perfect for those shopping for presents; you’re likely to have no trouble meeting the minimum requirements.

You can also use cards with cash back rewards to earn some points on what you buy. You won’t make up what you spend, but at least the bill will sting a little less.

Get Creative

Giving creative gifts doesn’t have to mean constructing something out of popsicle sticks. You just have to know what your talents are and find a way to give them to others.

If you’re known for being a baker, create homemade mixes that you can put in mason jars. Attach the recipe with a cute ribbon and you’ve given someone an easy treat to make themselves.

There’s also no shame in shopping for presents at a consignment or thrift store. Does anyone actually need a new copy of Harper Lee’s latest novel? Finding something used can be better than new for some – who doesn’t have a friend or family member obsessed with vintage charm?

If you have more time than money, consider offering babysitting, dog walking or cooking services. It’s an easy way to give a useful gift without spending any money.

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