A Debt-Free Christmas

By: Angela Howard Email
By: Angela Howard Email

It's easy to get carried away with Christmas shopping and spend more than we can really afford, but certified financial planner Bruce Hagan says there are ways to prevent the so-called financial hangover.

"First, it may be a good idea to reevaluate the importance of gifts in the big picture of the Christmas experience. If you place more emphasis on spending time with loved ones and enjoying more of the activities of Christmas, the gifts given and received become a smaller part of it. You can attend church services, plays, musical performances, exhibitions. You can run in the annual Jingle Bell run, walk around the neighborhood and view all the decorations. Donate some time to a charity. The list is almost endless."

However, if you just can't give up on the give and receive tradition, Hagan advises you in the rule of three.

He says create an account that you can save in throughout the year so you have the funds you want and need come Christmas time. If that's not something you think will work for you, Hagan suggests deciding on the total dollar amount that you can spend and stick with it.

"With that number in mind, make a list of all the people you’ll buy gifts for and put the dollar amount down by each name," he said.

Finally, Hagan suggests avoiding credit cards as much as possible. He says if you have the cash use it.

Some people go as far as to assign envelopes to each person on their shopping list and put the cash being spent on that person inside. When the money is gone, the shopping is done.

Hagan had a few other suggestions as well: He says to make gifts of items that you would have to buy for someone anyway.

"If your son is going to be playing baseball in the Spring, make his glove or cleats a Christmas present."

Useful gifts are always nice and homemade gifts, to many are priceless. Also - if you have a large extended family, Hagan suggests buying only for the kids or picking names so you can focus on one gift for one person.

Bottom line: whether you buy big, buy small channel your inner crafter or artist, make the holidays a happy time, both before and after the bills come in.

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