Don’t Go Into Debt This Christmas

Black Friday is just around the corner and the holiday season is upon us. The temptation to live beyond our means will be stronger than ever, and luring us in with those holly, jolly tunes. So as we head towards Christmas MMXIII, I have one wish for my fellow life-lovers: don’t go into debt this Christmas.

Living well within my means to get out of debt and grow wealth has been a hard-learned value. Like all values, it is easily lost by being watered down by exceptions. So I can’t make an exception to living within my means just because it’s Christmas. When I blow money on myself I feel guilty, but when I blow it on others I feel good. So it takes more effort and dedication to reign in my spending during Christmas.

Here are six ways I will keep my head above the line this year:

  1. Budget for Christmas. I have to be realistic about what I can afford to spend. While I was getting out of debt, I only kept an emergency fund in savings so I couldn’t afford much. If I want to live within my means, I have to have a plan. If I start buying with no plan, I’m certain to spend more than I can afford. Whatever the limit may be, it’s important to set the budget in advance (and to stick to it, of course).
  2. Bring back homemade gifts. A good friend of mine once spent the fall brewing several of his own beers and then gave everyone a six pack for Christmas. And as a bonus he had beer in the fridge until the next summer. A homemade project does not have to be that extensive though. We are thinking about getting some fun jars from Goodwill and making our own blend of homemade, seasoned nuts. Who doesn’t want a jar of nuts for Christmas? Let’s bring homemade gifts back into style.
  3. Don’t buy the latest and greatest. I rarely buy the newest of anything. Second generation is where the value is. Even better is refurbished second generation. I’m happy to let everyone else pay more to be testers; I’ll get the cheaper one the bugs have been worked out of.
  4. Buy quality over quantity. One thoughtful, good quality gift that will be kept for years beats a heap of useless junk. Quality doesn’t have to be expensive. I still use the wonderful cashmere scarf my mom gave me several years ago.
  5. Exchange shovels. Metaphorically speaking. If you have debt, you’re probably not the only one. If you have friends or family who are sharing your quest to become debt free, forget the useless trinket and give each other a little cash to pay off debt. (You can even give a little shovel for symbolism.)
  6. Agree to no gifts. The holiday season is not about presents, it’s about people. It’s about appreciating loved ones and enjoying good company. Yes, it feels great to give, but it has often been mutually wise to forgo the gift giving.

What other ideas do you have for being financially wise this Christmas?