In church this week, we agreed to make a pledge to have a debt-free Christmas this year and I thought this was a great idea. I had already made a silent pledge of this sort to myself, but it definitely keeps you honest when you declare something publicly. I wonder how many more people would make a similar commitment if they did it with the support of friends and family.

The Credit Culture

It seems so culturally sanctioned to overspend and use credit cards during the holidays that it feels almost un-American not to.  I think we can all agree that it sucks to still be paying off presents when Christmas comes knocking again next year. This pledge can be made for all holidays or occassions. So here are some tips I’m using to keep costs down and the credit cards away.

Piggy Bank

1. Set Clear Limits on Gift Giving – For the past several years my immediate family has instituted a Kid’s Only presents policy. Adding up $60 per couple for brothers and sisters and brother and sister-in-laws, not to mention aunts, uncles, etc. decidedly takes a huge financial toll on a family. Even with all the kids in our family it can still get pretty expensive. You could set price limits for kids gifts or do a Secret Santa to keep costs under control. You could let each kid draw a name and let them help make or pick out the recipient’s gift to get them excited about it. White Elephant is also a really fun gift-exchange game. If you know of others share them here.

2. Have a Budget – So this goes hand and hand with number 1. Know what you can truly afford  to pay for presents (in cash) and don’t go over it. If you do, chances are you’ll end up packing on the debt or struggling to pay your other bills in December. Let your friends and family know that you have a budget. Chances are good that your family won’t care if you don’t shell out big bucks on gifts. It’s really us who put the pressure on ourselves to buy expensive gifts that will (in our minds) adequately convey how much we love the recipient. But a gift is just a gift and can in no way quantify our feelings, so let’s all agree to stop trying to make this round peg fit into a square hole.


3. Gifts of Self – If you’re crafty and even if you’re not, you can find thousands of presents you can make yourself for relatively little money. A simple google search can yield tons of possible DIY gift ideas. If you can’t make something, offer something. You can create simple cards with coupons or offers to house sit, dog walk, babysit, clean, cook a meal, mow a lawn, shovel snow or a hundred other things that cost you only some time and maybe a little sweat equity. I myself would love some babysitting since I only leave my kids with family or really close friends and don’t get out without the kids very often.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to have a debt free holiday this year. Follow me on Facebook.