Simple Ideas to Help You Avoid Credit Card Debt This Christmas!
Christmas can often be a very expensive time of year: gifts, decorations, big dinners, donations, etc! Ideally, we should all try and save for this season throughout the entire year, but really, how realistic is that? Sometimes things just come up that suck up our money. Or, by the time January hits, the last thing we want to think about is saving for the very end of the year.
So, I have compiled a list of simple ideas to help you avoid credit card debt this Christmas.
Create an itemized budget right now!
It is already late November, but that does not mean all budgeting should go out the window. Sit down and determine the items you need to buy this Christmas. Make it as detailed as possible and assign each item a budget. Keep the budget realistic (not so low you will have no choice but to blow it) but also strict (if you don’t have a lot a lot of extra cash this year, you can’t have a super high budget). Here’s an example of one I have started working on….
Gifts for daughter and husband: $100 (total)
- Daughter $50
- Husband $50
Gifts for nieces and nephews: $75 (total)
- Julia $25
- Ryan $25
- Chloe $25
Christmas Eve party: $40 (total)
- Wine $20
- Snacks $20
Christmas cards: $60 (total)
- Cards $25
- Stamps (Canadian): $20
- Stamps (Europe): $15
Decorations: $95 (total)
- Christmas tree $40
- New stocking for daughter: $30
- Outdoor Christmas lights: $25
So, in total, I am planning to spend $370. This is realistic considering the extra cash I have laying around. If you make your budget and find that the total amount is too high, go back to each category and see what you can cut. Having a list like this will keep you on track and keep you away from the alluring Christmas items that have been popping up in stores!
If you have a Cash Back Rewards Credit Card, take advantage of the end of year cash back!
I am currently quite happily using the CIBC Dividend Visa Card. It’s a basic, no-fee, cash back rewards card that pays up to 1% back on all purchases at the end of the year. I love that the cash back payment pops up on my December Visa bill, because I just put this directly towards my Christmas spending. This year I am expecting to get $180 back, so this helps bring my $370 budget down to $190. Win!!
Start shopping now and look for the sales!
It is so easy to just wait until time is running out and rush to the stores to get your Christmas shopping complete. But, if you get started now, you can do some comparison shopping and find the best deals around. I love to comparison shop online – it’s such an easy way to find the best deals with the least amount of effort.
Add a personal touch (make stuff!)
Does the idea of any Christmas budget (even a very low one) make you squeamish? That’s okay! Christmas truly is not about buying stuff. There are many things you can do to enter into the spirit without spending a lot. Make personal gifts for your loved ones. You could collect photos to make a photo album or use your practical skills to sew or craft something. What about the gift of time? You could give a coupon for an afternoon together or make your loved one a special meal. Really, the possibilities are endless!
Suggest a Secret Santa gift exchange
I have 3 nieces and nephews to buy for. Some people have a lot more! Some people buy gifts for many friends and family members. If this is the case for you, suggest a Secret Santa gift exchange. That way you can significantly cut down on the number of gifts needed. This saves money as well as time and stress. And it will be more fun if you’re able to really focus on only 1 or 2 gifts!
If you’re hosting a party, suggest a pot luck
My husband and I do not host Christmas parties because we spend a lot of time with our families and it is our parents who always want to host (yay!). However, we usually go to one or two Christmas parties each year and I always encourage our hosts to have a potluck. We’re more than happy to make an appetizer or bring a case of beer and it takes a huge amount of cost off the hosts if each guest does the same.
Don’t spend for the sake of spending
This one might seem crazy considering we are all trying to avoid debt, but sometimes I have to remind myself that just because I set a $25 budget for my nephew, Ryan, it does not mean I have to spend all of it. If I discover that Ryan would really like a water gun that costs only $10.99, I should only spend the $10.99. Sometimes, I find myself wanting to add more on so that his gift costs the same as my nieces. But the important thing is that Ryan would like a water gun and will be thrilled that I get him one. No need to buy more stuff!
Track your credit card spending and don’t charge things you can’t afford!
A credit card can be a fantastic tool for managing your spending, but if you’re not careful, it can also be really easy to overspend without realizing it. I believe it is always important to carefully track your credit card spending, but at a time when you are making more purchases than normal in a fairly short period of time, it is REALLY important to track your spending. Know what you owe your credit card company and do not buy things on credit that you can’t afford (even if it is for someone else)!
Do you have any tips to avoid debt around the Christmas season?
Photo by whale05 via Flickr