Planning a “No Debt” Holiday

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How to Plan a no debt Holiday

Are you a big shopper, spender or giver?  Do the holidays always thrill you with the chance to get out and splurge a little since it’s Christmas.  Does the credit card bill after Christmas bring you down from your giving “high”?  Then it’s time for you to try a no debt holiday.  Does that seem impossible to you?  Well read on and I will give you the tools you need to survive and thrive this holiday season without going into debt.  I’ve also included a link tomy free blank printable gift certificate you can fill out to give as a gift of your time or resources at the bottom of the post.

1. Evaluate Your Giving List

  • Families start traditions that are hard to give up.
  • Families just keep growing.  Your siblings probably all have kids and before you know it, their kids will have kids. When do you stop adding names to your lists?
  • If your family interprets “draw names” as blaspheme, you may just have to lower your budget for each person or start getting crafty.
  • Make a list of each person you want to buy for and how much you want to spend on each person.
  • After evaluating your real money situation, go back and adjust spending amounts.
  • As you review your list, think of which people you might want to simply make a gift for and put a star by their names.

2. Make It a Team Effort

  • If you are married, consider sitting down with your spouse and discussing a real budget based on what you actually have to spend.
  • If you can start saving at the beginning of each year based on what you think you want to spend, by December all the money for spending could be accounted for and saved up.
  • If you plan to wait until the winter, what can you afford to budget based on what is currently in your account or will be next pay-day.
  • What kinds of things could you collectively give up to ensure you have the budget you need.  (Examples: Don’t eat out this week, don’t buy coffee this week.)

3. Use Cash, Not Credit.

  • Leave your credit cards at home.
  • Using cash can be done in two ways.
  1. Cash Envelopes- (If you’ve never heard of this, check out my post explaining cash envelope systems)
  2. Debit Cards + a way to track your spending
  • The easiest way to stay on budget, is to write each person on your list’s name on an envelope and put the amount of cash you have budgeted for their gifts in it.
  • This ensures that when the money is gone, it’s gone.  You can’t just keep swiping.
  • If you go with a debit card be DILIGENT about writing down what you are spending and who you are spending it on.

4. Plan for Success

  • To make a no-debt holiday happen you must plan.
  • If you don’t, you will overspend.
  • If it’s early in the year, consider starting an “envelope” or special bank account that is set up just for your annual Christmas budget.  That way you can save throughout the year.
  • One tool that I’ve used is a beautifully designed “Holiday Planning Workbook” by Ruth Soukup at  I printed this planner and it is awesome!  It has budgeting pages for meals, gifts, baking and more.
  • One other tool I plan to use is a Christmas buying tracker from Dave Ramsey’s website.
  • To learn more about the tracker, you can read about it at:
  • To go straight to Dave Ramsey tracker visit:
  • Apparently you can use it on your home computer and then open it on your smart phone as you shop!

5. Tips for Getting Great Gifts on a Budget

-Value The Gifts Retail Price, Not the Sale Price

  • Let’s say you have a budget for your nephew of $20.  You walk into Target and find this awesome action figure set that of a hero he loves for $12.95 on clearance that was $19.99 original price.  Instead of thinking that you now have around $6 left over.  Just get the one gift and keep the money in the envelope.
  • If you do this for enough people, you will have extra money for those gifts that you find that are just perfect for someone else but that is a little over budget for that person’s envelope!

– Would a “family” gift be better?

  • Maybe a family has 6 kids and to buy all 6 kids and the parents a gift, it will crush your budget.
  • Consider buying friends, or larger groups a combined “family” gift that makes your dollars stretch.
  • DIY Example:  If you budgeted $10 for every kid and $15 for the adults you are talking $90.  What if you made the family a movie night basket and got several great Disney movies, popcorn and movie candy.  Then your creating a gift that can be shared by everyone at the same time.  You could probably make that happen for closer to $60.

 -Is a store-bought gift necessary?  Why not DIY as many gifts as possible this year?

DIY: BAKING- For some people on your list, especially men, consider just baking them up some items that they really love.

  • Men are hard to buy for.
  • I don’t know many people who don’t like chocolate chip cookies, do you?
  • Right now, all baking items are going to be on sale.
  • Consider making the cookies coffee shop size so they are huge!
  • My favorite place to get adorable Christmas themed food gift containers is Hobby Lobby.  You will find them at 50% off for most of the season.  They usually have gift boxes and bags for every kind of holiday deserts you can imagine.


  • This is one of those kind of grey areas.
  • My best friend and I are super crafty people and so we respect and admire gifts that are handmade.  In fact most years we make it a goal to hand make each other’s gift.
  • Pinterest has made the idea of crafty gifts easy.  You could actually find something on there to make for people and the project will be easy on your wallet.  Most importantly it will probably be something useful too.
  • I think when considering making someone something, go for personal and usable as your two criteria.
  • If a crocheted Barbie dress toilet paper cover comes to your mind as a good gift to make for someone, I’ll be frank…you’re missing it.  But if you “could” make that, you’ve got the skills to make some pretty nice infinity scarves or coffee cup cozy’s or something someone on your list would love!  Then you’re talking about spending $5 on yarn and 4 hours of your time.


  • In years past when I had lots of good friends but no money for holiday gifts, I would start giving away my time.
  • In particular, any friends of mine that had kids would get free baby sitting coupons from me.  It was a sort of “pass” to let them know, hey you don’t have to be self conscious about asking me to babysit or feeling the need to tip me or pay me or whatever!  It’s easy!  Just turn in the coupon!
  • I have another friend who is an amazing baker.  She gives out coupons at Christmas that allows the receiver to turn in her coupon for their favorite dessert to be made from scratch.
  • My husband is an engineer by trade with lots of handy man life experience.  There have been several occasions where his gift was installing new lighting in a bathroom or new ceiling fan in a living room.  That’s a pretty good gift if you can’t do that yourself.
  • If you want to make your own, feel free to print and use the one I created here to give away your time and talents as gifts to friends or family.  You could print it on just about any color paper or card stock you want.

There are lots of ways to keep Christmas spending in line.  But you must have a plan and be really intentional about it.  If you don’t, you’ll just keep using that card and feel the pain in the new year.  Give yourself a break and give a cash only holiday a try.  Your spouse, family and sanity will thank you later.

Kim Anderson