Stop the Insanity of Christmas Debt This Year

by Joe Plemon on November 3, 2009

Sweets Sweets Sweets!
Creative Commons License photo credit: jeffedoe

If the following sentence sets off high anxiety in your life, this post is for you. It is November and Christmas is next month. Do you want to join the spirit of the season but the debt from last Christmas still plagues you? Does the memory of last January’s credit card statement set off heart palpitations? Do you think your only choice is to slump your shoulders, grab your plastic and trudge off to do your duty? Is Christmas no longer fun for you?

STOP! You have other choices! Today…right now…make the “no debt” resolution for this year. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured, trapped, goaded or guilted into spending money you don’t have. “How can I do this?” you are thinking. “My kids expect Christmas gifts. My family will have a gift exchange. Others are spending money on me.”

This year try substituting creativity for debt. Once you have drawn the “no debt” line in the sand, your creative juices will begin to flow. Here are some thoughts that really just scratch the surface of creative debt free gifts.

  • Do you sew? How about personalized aprons? Janice makes not only aprons, but purses, pillows, laundry bags and “woobies” (you will have to ask).
  • Can you crochet? An afghan or some potholders make great gifts. We always cherished the homemade afghans Janice’s Aunt Diddie used to make for us.
  • How about decoupage? Try a jewelry box or fancy picture frame.
  • Woodworking? Build a toolbox or a candle holder. My brother in law recently reminded me of a storage box I made for his Coleman lantern many years ago. I had forgotten, but he still remembered…and he still uses it.
  • No inspiration so far? Pictures of family, children or grandchildren mounted in inexpensive frames make great gifts. One of my sons photoshops photos into amazing creations as gifts. These are always treasures.
  • How about the gift of time? Make a hand printed certificate offering free babysitting or raking leaves or washing windows (hint to my kids). How about a special day alone with your daughter or a fishing trip with your son?
  • Can you write? Take the time to put in writing what you appreciate about your husband, wife, mom, dad, son, daughter…you get the point, but wouldn’t you love receiving such a heart felt letter? So would your loved ones.

This is the year to avoid debt and actually enjoy the spirit of the season. Will your friends and family understand? Probably not. Do you owe them an explanation? No, but if they ask, smile serenely and say, “We are living within our means this year.” Who knows? Maybe your good sense will inspire some sanity in others.

One thing is certain: you will be able to breathe easy when that January credit card statement arrives.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Korwin November 3, 2009 at 9:06 am

I happy that my extended family will be giving to a foodshelf instead of exchanging gifts. My wife and I will probably get each other a little something but won’t spend too much. We are trying to position financially so she can stay at home when we have kids. Praise God for His help!


Joe Plemon November 3, 2009 at 11:45 am

I love that your extended family agrees to give to a foodshelf this year. I tried initiating it a few years ago with ours, but tradition of buying gifts was too big to overcome at that time. We have, however, agreed to buy “yardsale bargains” instead of spending big bucks. It makes shopping more fun (for those who like yardsales) and much more affordable.


Josh November 4, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Great, Practical Advice!


Joe Plemon November 4, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Thanks Josh


Kristin Harad November 5, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Great post. I really like your ‘no debt’ pledge and agree that now that the stores are starting to wheel out the holiday displays, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about your own holiday spending plan.

While I love homemade gifts, what I think is even more important is that we feel good about the money we do spend. Gift-giving is supposed to be a joyous occasion, but it’s tough to have fun if you are wracked with guilt! Pick a total holiday spending number now, before the frenzy starts, and then you can feel good about the purchase decisions you make within that framework. I offer more specifics on holiday spending strategies at


Kristin Harad, CFP
Vita Vie Financial Planning


Deb November 5, 2009 at 8:53 pm

A couple of years my family decided to exchange gifts of things we already had but would no longer use or need: books we’d already read, CD’s and movies we no longer wanted, etc. It took a lot of thought to select the right gift for the right person but no money!


Joe Plemon November 6, 2009 at 8:23 am

Thanks for the link. Your post helps me consider ALL of the expenses of the season…not just the gifts. The “magic number” is a great concept, one we will try this year.


Kathy December 15, 2009 at 9:31 am

We haven’t exchanged gifts except among our immediate family (me, my husband, our kids) and our parents for years. Before that, we gave to nieces and nephews but not to fellow siblings. We gradually scaled down because it was INSANITY (and expensive) to exchange gifts amongst brothers, sisters, nieces/nephews, aunts/uncles, etc., and it was either that or draw names. Although some of mine and my husband’s siblings objected at first, I think we all are very happy with it — no pressure to find a good or “perfect” gift that won’t break the bank but will be appreciated; which means more time and money to spend with family and less pressure.

Starting in summer, I start really looking at yard sales for appropriate things which can be given as gifts to my children for Christmas. Most of the toys and books that are sold have little if any wear. Last year, I remember spending less than $50 for both my kids, and getting them each a bike ($5 apiece), a sit-n-spin, a train table ($5!!!!), plus loads of books and toys (mostly costly 50 cents apiece, some less and some more). This year will be similar.


Joe Plemon December 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

You get it! Scaling down and simplifying and using some common sense does not detract from our celebration of Christmas…it adds to it bigtime.

Like you, we buy lots of Christmas gifts throughout the year…many from yard sales. For us, it is like a treasure hunt and makes Christmas fun all year long.

We also spend more than we probably should for new gifts, but it is all budgeted and paid for with cash. And, like you, we have been scaling back a little every year.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!


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