Money & Career

How to stick to a debt diet over the holidays

As you know, my family’s on a debt diet. And I’m getting nervous because the holidays are right around the corner -- it means we have to exercise some serious self-control.

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As you know, my family’s on a debt diet. And I’m getting nervous because the holidays are right around the corner — it means we have to exercise some serious self-control. The problem is, the holidays are about two things we love: shopping and eating. Both could end up digging us into a financial hole. First, there’s the temptation to buy insane things like a $20 piece of cheese from Whole Foods. Or the last minute dash to buy presents and because you’re in a bind and it’s the last minute that $60 scarf for Aunt Jenny seems like a fine present (even though you budgeted 20 bucks). But this year we’re going to try and plan ahead. It will mean a few things:

  1. Making a budget. I did a little digging and found this holiday spending spreadsheet I am going to try (it’s from a site called Mommy Savers). I am not exactly a spreadsheet person (Excel makes me nervous), but I like this approach – it asks you to make a list with a) title of the expense; b) what the gift is; c) anticipated expense; d) what you actually spent. It looks like a great way to manage a holiday budget.
  2. Starting early – no more running around the stores the day before Christmas – it just ends up costing us so much more. (Okay, admittedly it’s December 3rd which isn’t exactly early for a lot of you….but it’s better than last year for us!)
  3. Designated giving – that’s right. In my family we’re drawing names – one gift per person with a limit of $50 (max!). A group of my girlfriends are also doing the same thing (one of us is coming up with a secret Santa list and we’ll give according to that).
  4. Going potluck – we’re doing the turkey and potatoes and everyone else is bringing something to round out the meal. That spreads the costs and lets everyone pitch in.

These are a few tricks we hope will cut our holiday bill – I would love to hear your suggestions in comments below. What are you doing to make sure you have a cheaper holiday this year?

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