Every year, I have a debt free Christmas. Mostly because I’ve never really been a fan of going into debt over Christmas. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong. It is my favorite holiday because it honors Jesus who is my Lord and Savior. However these days Christmas seems to be more about getting the latest and greatest Apple product and spending thousands of dollars on your friends and family.
Despite all the hype to open up your wallet, this isn’t the reason for the holiday, although retailers would have you believe that. If you’re tired of going into debt and looking at your bank account and your credit card statements on January 1 then considering implementing one or more of the tips below. It’s time you had a debt free Christmas!
Manage Your Cash Flow
Step one is to manage your cash flow today. Managing your cash flow means that you manage your spending and underspend the money that you bring in every single day. That’s hard for many of us. We’re used to using credit cards to cash flow our personal lives.
I could say it’s time to create a budget, but you probably already know that you should do this, but you’re not. So the first thing I would recommend is going to an all cash spending habit for the next 30 days. Get out of the habit of using a credit card for everything that you purchase.
Don’t worry; you can bring them back. I know it’s hard. I did it too. But, this activity is only for 30 days until you can get a feel for how much you’re overspending (if at all).
The 30-Day All Cash System
The 30-day all cash system is easy. It involves a pen, paper, calculator and some envelopes.
Write down the income that you receive from your job(s) on the sheet of paper. Then write down all of your necessary expenses. Necessary expenses include food shelter utilities and transportation. That’s it. Not even new clothes.
Wants include everything not already listed including your Christmas list, iPhone, fancy dinners, and entertainment. Sometimes I think that my wants are the same as my needs, but if I truly look in the mirror, I realize I’m way off. For example, I thought my iPhone was a need. When I needed to pare back expenses, I realized that it wasn’t. Instead, I used a prepaid phone and cut my phone bill by 75%.
Allocate your cash to all of your necessities first before moving down the Wants List to fund those categories. The goal is to have income be larger than expenses because that’s positive cash flow.
If for some reason you’ve covered your needs and do not have extra for wants, consider looking at your paycheck withholdings to see if you can reduce the amount that the federal government holds back on your behalf. Always speak to a professional advisor financial advisor before using information contained in this blog post.
If you can’t reduce the amount of withholdings, consider taking on a second job. This is something that you can do easily on your own, at nights, or in on your own spare time. I know this because I’ve had a side job for almost my whole life. I just like making money so it’s hard for me to do one thing.
Side note: If you want me to write about how to make money on the side, just comment below. I’ve dabbled in Etsy, Amazon Retail, Amazon FBA, eBay, yard sales, craft fairs, Facebook, websites, affiliate programs, and so much more. It’s fun, but you have to manage your cash flow first.
Once you have your cash flow organized, you can put your cash in envelopes. That’s what I did. Alternatively, you can stop by the ATM before your shopping visits so that you have cash to spend. I promised you that you’ll spend less in the store if you only pay with cash. You should have extra money by the end of the month that you can allocate towards your debt free Christmas.
Create a Debt Free Christmas Plan
Step two is to create a debt free Christmas plan. With this plan of attack, you’ll use only your extra cash flow and hopefully not all of it. The goal is to spend less than what is allocated in the debt free Christmas plan.
Create a list of people that you are purchasing for and what they would like for Christmas. Consider whether or not the item has to be a brand-name or can it be something similar or functional.
Next to each person’s name write down how much you’ll spend on the gift. You can even put down zero because there are free things that you can do as I explain below.
Now is the perfect time to test whether or not you are ready to use a credit card responsibly. You need to promise yourself that you’ll only charge what you budgeted for your Christmas purchases. This means that once you’ve hit your mark, you’re done. Even if you get a rebate or cash back, you can’t factor that in. It’s a bonus that you can look forward to at a later date. Perhaps you’ll exchange your bonus for paying off your credit cards early.
Get Exactly What’s On the List Using Discount, Coupons and Rebate Sites
If you want to get them exactly what they want, that’s fine! I do it all the time. But, I use discount and rebate sites combined with cash back from my credit card and hopefully a coupon.
For example, if someone on my list wants a gift card, I’ll try to buy it on eBay at 5-20% off. But, first I’ll go through Ebates to get the rebate from them. I’ll buy the gift card using my Rewards card, like Discover. Then eBay gives me eBay bucks every quarter that I’m over $5 in rewards from them.
You can click my referral link to get your $10 gift card when you join Ebates. When you use my referral link, it helps me pay for hosting as well as stay debt free. Thank you!
I set alerts deals sites like Slickdeals or Brads Deals so that I’m notified when the item I want drops in price. There are many sites and apps that will do this for you. These are just the two I use.
Once I get an alert, I head over to Ebates to see if there’s a cash back discount or coupon. I click the Ebates link and off I go to purchase exactly what I want at a nice discount!
Coupons are great. Consider visiting the retailer’s website to see if there is a discount if you sign up for their email list. Sometimes you can get a new subscriber discount.
Get Products For Free
You can get products for free or at a significant discount by becoming a reviewer. It works best if you already have Amazon Prime. Otherwise, you’ll likely need to spend that $99 to get Prime.
A Reviewer on Amazon can often purchase products for up to 100% off in exchange for an honest review. Sites like Tomoson and Review Kick are the best ones I’ve come across. Review Kick is my favorite! Although, if you see a specific product you want, you can always reach out to the seller directly and ask to review it.
I received multiple free and low-cost items in the mail in exchange for testing the product in providing an honest review. However, I’m very selective on the products that I choose to review because my time is valuable.
Every product that I review has an intended purpose. Perhaps I want it for myself, as a gift, or maybe feel it would be great in a nice big gift basket. I never sell a product that I have reviewed. It seems a bit unethical to me to compete with the seller who gave me a discount.
Discounted Personalized Gifts
This morning I made a calendar and a puzzle on Shutterfly.com because they sent me a free coupon. I knocked out two personalized gifts for about $17 in shipping and tax charges. The items were “free”, I just had to spend the time to design them and pay shipping and tax.
Sites like Vista Print, Shutterfly, and SnapFish are often my go-to sites for personalized gifts at a great price. Sign up for their mailing lists to get the best deals and always go through Ebates to get the rebate.
If you’re a Discover Card member, there is often a free item every month in the Shop Discover section. All you need to have is the coupon. Then go to Ebates to get the rebate if for some reason you buy something over the coupon deal.
I can’t write a debt free Christmas article without telling you to consider making your own gifts. Homemade gifts are special. They’re usually unique, and they show that you took the time out of your busy life to make something specific for the recipient.
A friend of mine once made me Christmas cards. They cost her about a $3 per gift. She printed out images from Shutterfly that she received for free, but paid postage. Each image cost about eight cents.
She glued those images to the cards and envelope bundle pack that she purchased with a 50% off coupon from the local craft store. She wrapped them in a cute paper bag tied with some twine. It was a beautiful homemade gift, and her total cost was $15 for five homemade gifts.
She could’ve used a stamp or recycled old cards instead of paying eight dollars for photos from Shutterfly. But, she wanted to share her photography talent and share a piece of herself.
I mail cards all the time to give away to my friends and for programs like Operation Write Home. They’re inexpensive to make however they take time. My friends know that my time is very valuable, so they appreciate the homemade gifts that I give them.
If you’re making homemade gifts, consider what your time is worth to you and those around you. A homemade gift might be the perfect way to show that you care.
Remember that you can always sell your homemade items on Etsy or Handmade by Amazon. Craft fairs, eBay, Craigslist, and in your local Facebook groups are also alternative places.
Barter and Exchange
Do you have a talent skill or ability that is hard to find in the marketplace? Perhaps you can exchange your talent for something that you want. Find sites or Facebook groups where you can discuss bartering. Bartering is usually a win-win unless the federal government steps in. If you’re frequently bartering, be sure to discuss the tax implications with a financial expert.
Try a Side Hustle
A woman in one of my Facebook groups makes tamales every Friday. You order them for about a dollar each, but you have to pick them up. They’re really good, and it helps her earn extra money on the side.
Perhaps you’ll try a side hustle this year to help you with your debt free Christmas. What are a few things that you’re good at? Can you bake cakes and cookies? Are you great at cutting the lawn? There are so many things you can do to earn extra income these days.
As you venture into your side hustle, remember to comply with your state and federal laws. It’s likely that you will need to comply with cottage laws in your state if you’re baking in your kitchen. You may also need a business license or limited liability company to protect your assets.
Negotiate a no spending Christmas
Instead of going through the Christmas season racking up debt, consider negotiating with your family for a non-spending holiday. Tell them you’re trying to have a debt free Christmas. You could visit a homeless shelter and pack food for them, sing carols to your neighbors, or simply sit and play games with each other.
Family is the most important thing, and it’s the time together that everyone seems to value the most anyways. Cherish the ones you love. And remember that they’ll forget the Apple watch you once purchased, but will always remember the traditions that you set forth each and every year.
Is this the year that you’ll have a debt free Christmas? I’d love to hear your comments below!