Debt Savings

20+Ways To Have a Debt Free Christmas

September 5, 2016
Christmas should not be the most expensive holiday of the year. Read this article for tips on how to stay debt free and save money this holiday season!
This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure policy here.


Debt and Christmas go hand in hand for many Americans. In fact, based on this survey 52 percent of those in debt whipped out a credit card to finance their Christmas in 2014.

Now, I’m not knocking the use of credit. If you have the money in the bank to back up those purchases you make, then that’s a different story.

I don’t know about anyone else, though, but I would rather sleep right through Christmas day before I go into debt to purchase gifts for anyone, kids included. Fortunately for me, it’s been years since I’ve felt the need to do so and I’m so thankful for the change in mindset.

For those of you who don’t want to pay for Christmas well after the holidays are over, this post is for you. I’m sharing 26 ways you can have a debt free Christmas this year.  Grab some tea and take notes!


Christmas should not be the most expensive holiday of the year. Read this article for tips on how to stay debt free and save money this holiday season!


1) Set a budget now.

You’ve got a few months left before Christmas so think of the amount you’ll need or a spending limit for each gift and work your way backward. If you have 7 remaining paychecks before Christmas and a $700 goal, you’ll need $100 per paycheck. Get it?


2) Utilize credit card rewards.

If you’re a regular credit card user, you may have racked up a nice amount of credit card rewards that you can use for the holidays. And I’m not just talking Christmas gifts either. Perhaps your card provides travel rewards. Those will come in pretty handy for those of you who are going out of town this holiday season.


3) Avoid biggest sale of the year gimmicks.

{insert eye roll} The “biggest sale of the year” is not the biggest, I’ll tell you that much. There is something waaaay bigger than the “biggest sale” and that’s scoping out those clearance racks for Christmas gifts and toys.

And don’t dare tell me it’s not true either because I personally shop the clearance rack before I look anywhere else. I have a whole BOX full of birthday party/Christmas gifts for the chirens. These are toys I’ve picked up for 75% to 90% off regular price.

Bonus Tip: Also, check clearance sections for nice candles and mugs. These make great gifts for teachers and friends!


4) Shop using Ebates.

If you shop online and you don’t use Ebates, it’s like saying, “I’ll pay extra for this just because!” Seriously, check out Ebates. Heck, they even give you  a free $10 gift card to a retailer of your choice just for signing up and making a purchase!

Related Reading: Shop Online Using Ebates and Get Free Cash Back


5) Check online before shopping in-store.

It’s nice to do a little comparison to see who’s going to give you the best bang for your buck. If you know one retailer will give you something for a certain price, you can check with your local competing retailer to see if you can get a better price.

For instance, at Lowe’s if you find a better price on an identical item at a local store, they will match their price by 10 percent. All you have to do is bring in an ad!

See store policies for retailers like Target and Walmart as well.


6) Do you have a Target RedCard?

If you’re a regular shopper at Target and have a RedCard, 5% online and offline can add up over the year. Not only that, if you want to make a purchase online you can save on shipping costs. Utilize these extra perks this time of year to score extra savings.

And if you insist on shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that extra 5% off will go a long way in reducing the overall price you pay for those little gimmicks just to get you in the store.


7) Take surveys for gift cards and extra cash.


8) Host a Holiday potluck.

Just because Christmas dinner is at your home doesn’t mean you have to do all the cooking. I mean, not unless you want too. If someone asks to bring something, politely thank them and tell them what to bring!

I name any and everything I can think of that will make my Christmas day less stressful. You can ask guests to bring drinks, silverware, dessert, side dishes, or all of the above.


9) Sell stuff you no longer need on Ebay or Craigslist.


10) Used unused gift card balances or sell them.

If you have any unused gift cards that you can’t use to purchase any gifts on your gift list, consider selling them!  I recommend Card Pool because you can buy, sell, or trade gift cards. You can sell them for up to 92 percent cash back or buy gift cards 35 percent off. You also can get 6 percent more for your gift card if you receive payment in the form of an Amazon gift card.  


11) Choose a holiday decor theme.

Choosing a theme for the holiday will help narrow your focus and reduce the overall costs on decor. For example, a rustic holiday decor theme can be achieved using popcorn, cotton, twigs, sticks and pinecones.

All you need to do is head to your pantry, pop some popcorn, and have the kids go outside and grab some nature. You and the family can create decor using this stuff and save a lot of money.


12) Open a savings account just for the holidays and contribute year round.

I recommend creating a separate gift account and fund it year round. Not only will you have Christmas covered this way, but you’ll also cover all of those unexpected gifting events during the year like baby showers, birthday parties, etc.  

Open an account with Capital One 360 with a minimum of $250 and you’ll get a $25 bonus to use for the holidays.


13) Give edible gifts instead of expensive gifts.

Try baking a few batches of cookies for your co-workers. Have the kids make some candy for their teachers. If fruit is on sale, create a gift basket for your pastor and his wife. Look for tin cans, disposable containers, and baskets at your dollar store and get creative. To get your juices flowing, here are a few examples below.


14) Save gift bags!

I never throw away gift bags unless they are damaged. You probably won’t believe me but just last year I got rid of the last girl baby shower gift bag that someone gave me at my baby shower from over six years ago.

I have all the gift bags! Weddings, baby showers, birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day — all of them.  If the gift tag has been written on, just rip it off and stash them in a bin until you’re ready to use them.

And yes, I make my family take their gifts out of those used bags on Christmas morning just so they can be returned to the stash. Call me cheap, whateva!


15) Ditch greeting cards and go digital.

It seems like every other year the cost of stamps are going up and needless to say, no one really cares if they get a greeting card or not. I know I don’t. I used to do this every year but once everyone started sending Christmas texts and emails, I ditched the effort and joined the digital movement. #iaintsorry either.


16) Give framed photo gifts.

Take a family photo and go to the dollar store and buy some frames. Grab some pretty ribbon at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby (using your 40% off coupon) and use it to tie around your frame. These were the gifts we gave last year and it saved us a ton of money since we didn’t feel like buying a bunch of different gifts.


17) Don’t do Santa lists with kids.

I don’t ask my kids what they want for Christmas. Christmas ain’t about that. Now I will listen on the sly to things I hear my daughter express interest in, but I don’t make it a point to have her to create a crazy wish list. I like to shop clearance during the year for affordable toys and then try to give each kid one thing they really want. It makes my life much simpler.


18) Get a part time job (I know, I know — it’s just temporary).


19) Give a financial gift like a contribution to a 529 account.

Last year, I wrote an article for Cat Alford about great financial gifts you can give your children this holiday. Check it out here and tell Cat I said hello!


20) Avoid Buy Now, Pay later like your life depends on it!

Honey, when that interest kicks in you’ll be hating yourself. If you don’t pay off that balance before the promotional period ends on these types of deals, you’ll owe interest on the original plus any interest that you would have accrued during the promotional period. I just don’t deal with these offers at all.


21) Look for free entertainment and Groupon for holiday activities

Your entertainment bill during this time of year can easily spin out of control. A play here, a musical there, New Year’s parties, etc. Add in drinks, foods, and attire for the occasions and your budget can suffer a mighty blow.

Instead of paying, look for free activities. Some neighborhoods or churches have free plays and musicals during the holidays. If not, check out Groupon, your local Macaroni Kid, or town newspaper for free events.


22) Use shopping apps like Ibotta or Shopkick.


23) Plan holiday travels ahead of time to score best deals. Churn those credit card rewards for air miles if you’re fancy.


24) Donate time and goods to a charity.

Why? Because you won’t be spending money. Volunteering your time or decluttering your home for charity doesn’t involve swiping a credit card. Give and save!


25) Keep life simple during the holidays with simple and cheap meals the weeks leading up to the holidays.

I’m not great at creating meal plans so I’ll share an articles or two that have some great meal plans that are simple and cheap for you.


26) Give practical gifts to kids and adults.

Instead of expensive Bath and Body Works, give your loved ones (especially struggling college students) a toiletries basket with things they would use every day. Put it in a basket and tie it off with a nice bow. If you start ahead you can use coupons along with drugstore deals and get toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, lotions and such at rock bottom prices or free.


Wrapping Thangs Up

This could be considered 20+ ways to save at Christmas vs having a debt free Christmas, but I think it’s important to point out that every little bit adds up. Once you begin spending and the money runs out, it’s easy to fall back on that credit card.

Relying on credit during Christmas time can put your finances in serious jeopardy. This doesn’t have to be the most expensive time of the year if you plan for your expenses and save ahead.

These are all easy and realistic things that you can actually do to achieve a debt-free Christmas this year. Call it savings, debt-free techniques or whatever you like — just implement some of them in your holiday spending plan and thank me later.


Anyone else got any good debt-free Christmas tips to share? Drop me a line in the comments!


Latoya Scott
CFEI/Social Entrepreneur
Latoya Scott is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and personal finance writer with a mission to help millennials learn how to stop living paycheck to paycheck so they can become financially carefree.

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  • Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog September 5, 2016 at 2:09 am

    The first tip is the best. I set my budget for $600 a long time ago and have been saving each month. I’m on track to have it all by November in time for shopping deals.
    Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog recently posted…August 2016 Online Income ReportMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Woot Woot! That’s awesome!

  • Ashli @ The Million Dollar Mama September 5, 2016 at 11:15 am

    I try to purchase items throughout the year for people, that way the spending is spread out over the year, instead of one big chunk in December. Also, it allows me to take advantage of good deals, because as you said, the best deals are definitely not found in the “Biggest Sale of the Year!” (p.s. I’m all about saving gift bags too – so wasteful to just throw them out after one use!)
    Ashli @ The Million Dollar Mama recently posted…September GoalsMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      I know right! I gotta save those gift bags:)

  • Kemkem September 5, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Mine would be to stop buying presents :-). I have always believed that gift giving should come from the heart and should be given whenever the mood strikes. No need to wait till Christmas. It has become so commercialized, l gave up on it years ago. It’s all about being with the ones you love. Growing up in Africa, nobody gave gifts..
    Kemkem recently posted…Bologna Italy: Rough guide to the Red, Fat & WiseMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      I agree, KemKem. When it gets to the point that you’re begrudgingly giving out gifts that is when you need to take a step back and re-evaluate!

  • Little House September 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Ugh! Christmas already!? We’ve gotten to the point where I make edible gifts for my co-workers (I use Pinterest for ideas) and have really reduced our gift budget for family. This year we’re hoping to draw names, but we’ll see how our family feels about this. With purchasing a home, we feel a little squeezed this year!

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      Yeah, I know what you mean.

  • Marsha September 5, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I never understood why people go so crazy on Christmas gifts to the point that they’re broke afterwards. I always set a budget. I’m not proactive enough to shop for gifts throughout the year, but I plan my gifts for my kids and get crafty for everyone else. I don’t feel obligated to give everyone a gift. I agree, practical gifts are great.
    Marsha recently posted…RealHer Moisturizing Lipstick ReviewMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      Hey Marsha! Unfortunately, I see this every year! I no longer feel obligated to reciprocate or keep up with gifts for everyone either.

  • Shannon at GrowingSlower September 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Living debt free at Christmas really captures the true meaning of peace and joy of the season. Thanks for sharing my frugal recipe ideas, I hope it will be a big help to your readers as they plan their holiday meals. 🙂

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      You’re welcome, Shannon!

  • LaQuishs Hall September 5, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    There was no better time to read this post then in September! LOL! I love this post and I have been saving gift bags all my life, LOL! There is still plenty to do. Thanks for the tips!

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      You’re welcome:)

  • Antoinette September 6, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Great money-saving tips. I recently began using more coupons and the Ibotta app and I’m loving the savings. The Walmart savings catcher is also great.

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      I’ve heard about the Walmart savings catcher. I’m going to have to look more into it

  • Tomiko September 6, 2016 at 2:26 am

    My husband and I decided our daughters would get 400 for both their bday and xmas combined because we are taking them to Costa Rica next year so I’m not going all out like I usually do.

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      Sounds like a fun trip to look forward to!

  • Tiffany H September 6, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Great Tips! My plan was to start in June, putting money aside, so it doesn’t hit me all at once during Christmas time! Christmas is my favorite holiday and i tend to shop during the holidays instead of birthdays..
    Tiffany H recently posted…Solo Travel does not mean you have to be alone!My Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Yes, things are much easier with a little planning ahead. Thanks for reading, Tiffany!

  • Tia @ financiallyfitandfab September 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I think number 1 is thee most important! Set a budget a stick to it. Personally, I set my budget per each person and start shopping early! I make sure to not go over my budget by shopping the sales early.
    Tia @ financiallyfitandfab recently posted…Balance Transfer: The Best Way to Pay Off High-Interest DebtMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Same here, Tia! I think it’s so important to think ahead when it comes to the holidays. I’ve actually been thinking about the holidays since July!

  • Mimi Green September 6, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    I believe in a debt free Christmas. There was certainly a time when I would give my credit cards a mean workout during the holiday. That also meant paying for it the rest of the year. I no longer do that.
    Mimi Green recently posted…Ubiquitous Expo RecapMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 6, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Same here, Mimi! I got sick and tired of being sick and tired with those credit card bills!

  • Ty September 7, 2016 at 2:58 am

    What a timely post. These are some great tips and as usual, I made my notes.
    Ty recently posted…Taraji P. Henson Covers Entertainment WeeklyMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm

      You’re welcome, Ty!

  • VeePeeJay (Vashti) September 7, 2016 at 3:01 am

    We don’t go crazy at Christmas or any time of the year for that matter. I think not having kids (or a lot of family close by) helps 🙂 But these are great tips. I never shop without using Ebates.
    VeePeeJay (Vashti) recently posted…I Went Parasailing & I Didn’t Die. Three Things I Learned from Conquering My FearMy Profile

  • Terri September 7, 2016 at 9:41 am

    This is a GREAT post! I personally buy gifts throughout the year and stash them for christmas. I will have to say that I totally disagree with the holiday card bit though. Yes, it may not be the most cost effective, but I love getting holiday cards in the mail and get great comments from people who receive mine as well. There’s just something about knowing that in a world when people are so digital and rushed, that someone actually took a moment to write me that warms my heart. Anybody can send a text or write a Facebook post, but you it’s something special when someone sends you a physical card.

    And girl, I’m all about shopping online right now just so I can get my beats and Mypoints rebate money. It’s like throwing away money if I don’t.
    Terri recently posted…How to Save Money Without Falling for the CatchMy Profile

    • Latoya Scott September 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      I know that’s right! Yeah, I was a little bummed when I noticed that my friends and family didn’t do holiday cards anymore because I was all ready to send them. However, I felt it was important to cut back as much as possible and since these weren’t well received in my circle they had to go, lol

  • Nay September 8, 2016 at 12:32 am

    I AGREE WITH #18 ESPECIALLY SINCE IF YOU UTILIZE IT CORRECTLY YOU CAN PAY OFF SOMETHING AS WELL. I am all for giving self the gift of being debt free.

  • Alaya@Hope+Cents September 13, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Great tips Latoya! Christmas is so much more enjoyable if you know it’s paid for!

  • Anna September 22, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    I LOVE these ideas! Thank you so much for sharing this post. I always tend to go overboard with Christmas shopping and end up paying for it later. Which is frustrating and really draining! I’m definitely going to write these down and remember them these upcoming months 🙂

  • Lori October 5, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I’m going to try to sell stuff for Christmas money this year. I’ll set a goal and shop as I earn

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