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How to survive the holidays on a budget

5 Tips To Stay On Track

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just around the corner, many of us who are living on a strict budget while digging out of debt can start to feel anxiety about anything from traveling for family events to being able to purchase gifts for loved ones. How does one make it through what should be a joyous time of year with their budget and sanity still intact? Check out our five simple tips below.

Make a list and check it twice

Purchasing gifts during the holiday season is a time honored tradition, however when you are getting out of debt, some traditions you are accustomed to doing need to be scaled back a bit. Consider making a list of every person (family, friend, co-worker) that you would potentially purchase a gift for. Next, look at the list, and see if you can scale that down any. Instead of exchanging gifts with family members during the holidays, share with them the fact you are on a journey to becoming debt-free, and this year you would not be purchasing gifts. You can still show you care about them by sharing a free/affordable experience with them, offering to help out or contribute during holiday parties, or make something personalized for that individual.

If you feel implored to purchase something for everyone on the list, we suggest you have a budget for each individual, and stick to it. Often times you can find yourself stressing over things that in the big picture won’t matter (like gifts), because it is the thought that counts.

Book your travel now

Holiday travel is often one of the biggest expenses for those getting out of debt. If you are flying to see family during Thanksgiving or Christmas, you need to look at securing your flight asap. Ticket prices generally skyrocket as we get closer to the season, and often you can find deals if you are flexible on your departure dates. Many historically have been able to save hundreds on airfare by flying on Thanksgiving day vs. the day before, and returning home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving vs. the Sunday after. Regarding Christmas, it is a little tougher to nail down the best deals, as based on your destination you can see variability in pricing. Warm weather locations are often the preferred destination during the Christmas break, and prices for the beaches or islands are higher than normal no matter when you book. You may see a slight break if you travel on Christmas Day vs. Christmas Eve, however we have found that people booking a flight on Sunday December 21st this year could see the best deals during the last two weeks of 2019.

We suggest you compare airfare prices online via Google Flights or Airfare Watchdog.

Start Holiday shopping now

Since you have a list of who you are buying for, and you know the budget for each person, it never hurts to start keeping an eye out for deals in October. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales tend to offer nice sales for certain categories such as electronics or toys, however if you aren’t in the market for those, you may be able to scratch off many people from your list before Turkey Day. Remember, when in doubt, gift cards always are the right size.


Related: When do consumers start their holiday shopping (via

Holiday Shopping 2018 report

Try something different this year

If you have a large family, or even a sizable amount of co-workers you interact with, consider doing a gift exchange via Secret Santa. If you are not familiar, a Secret Santa exchange works when everyone’s name is written down on a piece of paper and thrown into a box/hat. Each person of your family/job selects a name, and keeps it a secret. On the designated gift exchange day, you bring your gift and share it with the person you chose. Everyone in the exchange is in agreement with the maximum amount one would pay ($20 works often for Secret Santas in an office).

Resist The Urge…

This last step is personal. If you know yourself, and know that you can be lured by slick marketing to apply for store credit cards just to get 15% off of a particular purchase you are making, don’t go in a store. If you know yourself, and realize that if you swipe your credit card for gifts, you will likely blow your budget because of your unconscious spending habits, use cash only.

Whatever your challenge is, identify it, and mitigate the risk of getting in potentially more debt this holiday season by being ahead of situations. The holiday season should be one that offers up joy and lasting memories with loved ones. You should not harbor debt months into the following year, with a sense of regret. It is possible to survive the holiday season on a budget, but it takes a very direct and honest approach to your finances, and daily discipline to live on a budget.

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