“Ideas for a Debt-Free Holiday,” Ensign, Dec. 1996, 62–63
The Christmas holiday poses a financial challenge for many families. One of the best gifts a family can give itself is a debt-free Christmas, which means spending within means and avoiding credit card debt. Here are a few tips to help make this gift possible.
Year-Round Buying Power
You can avoid debt during holiday shopping by spreading the costs of Christmas gift giving throughout the year.
Think ahead. Make Christmas lists early in the year so you have an idea of what to purchase throughout the year. Include on your list clothing sizes and special interests of those for whom you will be buying gifts. Keep the list with you so you can update it or jot down ideas as needed.
Budget by the month. Plan for Christmas in your monthly budgets. Either purchase gifts month by month, or, if storage space is unavailable, set aside funds each month for making purchases closer to Christmastime.
Shop sales. If you have the shopping list sketched out at the beginning of the year and a budget in mind, you can shop sales during the year. Some of the best are after-Christmas sales, end-of-season sales, and clearance sales. Wrapping paper, decorations, clothing, sporting goods, and larger items such as bikes or luggage can all be found on sale, but those sales are not always close to Christmas.
Made with Hands and Heart
Utilize your skills in sewing, woodworking, painting, flower arranging, and so on to create beautiful yet relatively inexpensive gifts.
Home-canned goods. When you are canning for the season, think ahead. Would some of your children who have left home appreciate a few quarts of Mom’s homemade preserves or Dad’s famous salsa? Decorative jars stuffed with goodies are also appropriate gifts for neighbors and those you visit as a home or visiting teacher. Throughout the year, look for unusual or specially shaped jars that will add a nice touch to the home-produced goods you give at Christmastime.
Coupon books. Homemade coupon books are an inexpensive way to give of your time and talents. Suitable for exchange between any member of the family, coupons can range from “good for one evening of baby-sitting” to “good for doing the dishes on your night.”
Other money-saving and debt-free tips for the holidays include the following:
Gift exchanges. Each family member draws one or two names from a pool of family members’ names and gives a Christmas gift to that person or persons rather than exchanging gifts with everyone. (Keep in mind that the number of names to be drawn per person determines the number of times each person’s name appears in the name pool. This ensures that the name pool will not be depleted before all have a turn to draw names.) Families with married children may find it helpful to draw a family as a unit rather than drawing the names of individuals in each family.
Used items. Used items can often be bought in good or repairable condition. One woman bought a used toy kitchen for her children and simply repainted it and replaced missing knobs and pieces. She saved money, and the toy kitchen looked new.
Gift wrap. Rather than buying gift boxes, cover sturdy cardboard boxes of various sizes with Christmas fabric. These decorative boxes could be used within the family year after year. Fabric can also be used to make drawstring bags for gifts, or it can be used in place of wrapping paper. Children especially may want to decorate common paper sacks with decorative illustrations or cutouts of snowflakes, Christmas trees, hearts, or wreaths. The gaily decorated bags can be used in place of wrapping paper and boxes year after year, and the artistic effort will surely be appreciated.
With some of the commercialism and financial stress taken out of Christmas, families can give themselves an even more important gift—a month of joy in family gatherings, acts of service, and increased love for the Savior.