10 Best Debt-Busting Holiday Strategies for 2008

Written by Cindy Morus

By Cindy Morus, Creator of the Pay Debt Quickly System

According to a Gallup poll, the average American family will spend $801 this year on Holiday gifts. Remember an average means that some people spend way more and some people spend a lot less. With economic times tough this year for most people, it’s a good chance to talk to your friends and family about cutting back on Holiday gift giving, seeking alternatives or even eliminating it altogether. Most people have more than enough “stuff” and that’s why they are so hard to buy for.

I’m going to be below that average number for several reasons. About 20 years ago, when the grandkids started arriving, most of my extended family decided not to purchase Christmas gifts for each other with the exception of my sister and her husband who have no kids but are generous with the nieces and nephews. Even my Mom and Dad suggested that we not exchange gifts this year due because of the hit their retirement accounts have taken.

I’ll be buying wine from Phelps Creek Vineyards for my sister and hubby (Sh, don’t tell), my son gets a ski pass and my daughter a check because she’s saving to go to London for the Spring term. That’s it for me. How about you?

And remember, the Holiday isn’t all about buying and giving! Most people want more of the spirit of the season — friendship, music, love. Don’t be so obsessed with the buying and spending that you wind up with stress, hassle and shopper’s burnout. Plan to incorporate the things that really matter in life: spending time with family and friends, being part of a community, enjoying your faith and just plain having fun.

Doing some planning now along with a shift to the spirit of the season, can make the New Year much happier since you know massive credit card bills won’t be filling your mailbox.

Here are some specific ideas. Implement one or all!

1. Make a Spending Plan and Stick To It. Decide in advance how much you’re going to spend on each person AND the total amount you plan to spend on everyone. That way, if one gift is more expensive than you expected, review the rest of your list to find reductions so you don’t exceed your overall spending plan. Don’t forget decorations, cards, stamps, wrapping paper.

It can be tough to stick to a budget when those around you are big spenders. If you want to change the gift giving pattern, do it early before people start making purchase.

2. Do Something Different This Year. Instead of buying a gift for every person, you can draw names (Have kids draw other kids and adults draw each other). One family I know always has an additional twist like buying something for the person that starts with their first name. For example, Jean might get a Jacket and Rebecca a Robe. Have a dollar limit.

You might also consider purchasing a family gift or brothers and sisters can go in on something bigger for Mom and Dad than they could purchase individually. My kids have been doing that for years because we set a low dollar limit on how much they could spend on us and each other.

A “white elephant” take away is also a fun way to spend the day and everyone gets a good laugh. Ornament gift giving can also be fun and a way to create memories for many years to come.

3. Set a Limit on the Number of Gifts. Young children get overloaded very easily with quantity so Mom and Dad might limit the number of gifts their children get. You can spread the gift giving out over several days, too, which gives them time to play with their gifts. If you do get too many, think about putting some away for a few weeks.

4. Spend time, not money. If you’re short of money, offer gifts of your time: Baby-sitting services for exhausted new parents. Painting assistance for a friend who just bought a house. Pet-sitting for traveling neighbors. Grandparents can teach grandkids a skill. I can still remember the Christmas my grandmother taught me to knit.

Organize an Appetizer potluck or Progressive dinner with your friends or family. Everyone brings or prepares something so the cost and work are spread around. And make sure everyone does their share of clean up, too!

5. Connect with your Community. Whether or not organized faith services are part of your tradition, there’s a lot going on. Here in Hood River, there are food drives, community meals, holiday concerts and performances, and lots more. It’s a good chance to get out and catch up with people you might not see but once or twice a year.

6. Gift Giving Alternatives. Donate to a cause that’s important to the recipient (check out charities at www.CharityNavigator.org). Purchase gifts that benefit others. Lutheran World Relief – one of the top-rated charities (www.lwrgifts.org) has lots of great ideas from critters to water to education. You might want to ask them what cause they’d like you to support.

Ask family members to consider contributing to your kids’ college accounts. That’s a gift that last for the rest of their lives.

7. Use up Store Credits and Gift Cards. This is going to be especially important because a number of stores are already slated to close their doors after the Holiday season and a lot more will probably do so before the end of 2009. Many gift cards lose value or expire over time so get them out and use them up.

8. Take Yourself Off the List. The National Retail Federation reports that the average shopper will spend $99 on themselves! You might also talk to your spouse or significant other to create a plan – maybe you could the money for something you need for the house or cars and if you’re not sure of your job prospects for next year, start a savings account.

9. Use Send Out Cards for Christmas Cards and Gift Giving This Year. Send Out Cards allows you to choose a card from over 13,000 designs and you can even upload your own photos and have a custom card. They’ll print them and send them out with a real first class stamp for about $1 per card. And you don’t have to go to the store, post office, or lick.

10. Create Your Own Family Traditions. Everything in our world is shifting and it’s a chance for you to create your own activities and traditions. The first year the kids got ski passes, I told them that’s all they would be getting. They asked “What will we do on Christmas?” and I said “Go Skiing!” I didn’t plan Christmas Day dinner and they were starving when we got home so I made Tuna Noodle casserole and that became our Christmas Day dinner tradition!

Think forward to end of the Holiday Season and how you’ll feel about the amount of time, energy and money you spent. If you don’t like the outcome, change it now. There’s no such thing as the Holiday you read about in a book or see on TV – you don’t have to be held hostage to the Super Christmas. Take a few moments now, check in with your spouse and kids and decide how you want your Holiday to turn out.

More Help from Cindy:

Trouble with debt? Eliminate your debt and save your money using the Pay Debt Quickly System. It comes with the software and strategies you need get rid of your debt without making an large payments or making any significant lifestyle changes. Click here to learn more and get started right away or sign up for her free Powerful Debt Reduction Starter Guide.


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