Budget Your Way to a Debt Free Holiday

Do you wind up paying off holiday debt for months after spending it every year? It’s a problem plenty of people face: post-holiday financial blues. It’s so easy to lose track of your spending when there are gifts to buy and big meals to make, while retailers are going all out to open up your wallet. It’s even easier when you’ve got credit cards to lean on.

But getting into debt for Christmas can throw a wrench in your plans for the rest of the year. You’ll be busy playing catch-up instead of saving for retirement, a house, or that next vacation, long after the tree’s gone out to the curb.

When you get out of debt for good, you can live a stress free life that allows you to focus on your savings goals. Whether you’re already working toward life after debt or you’re trying to figure out what to do about those high bills now, here are some tips for escaping the holidays without a huge bill at the end of it.

Save Money in Advance

Planning ahead is always your best bet. The earlier you start saving the better, as you’ll have a clear idea of how much you can spend this year. The average holiday debt racked up by consumers every year is $1,000, and only 42% can pay it back in three months or less.

Saving is always better than borrowing. When interest rates get applied to your balance, it inflates the cost of all that gift-giving.

Budget Out Every Dollar

The zero dollar budget is a great tool for getting out of the holidays unscathed. The concept is simple in a month-to-month budget: you take your income, subtract expenses, savings, debt repayments, taxes, etc., and the end result is zero.

During the months you plan on doing holiday shopping, make sure those expenses are part of your monthly budget.

Create a Holiday Budget

Alternatively, you can take a look at the money you’ve set aside or have extra for the holidays and budget where each and every dollar will go from there. Start by doing a holiday inventory, including how much you’ve saved and how much you plan to spend.

Those gift lists are going to come in handy. These days, even if you decide to save on shipping and do your shopping in-person, you can still do a lot of your research online, so you know exactly how much you’re going to wind up spending on gift-giving.

Pick Up Extra Work on the Side

Have an opportunity to cash in on some overtime? A little bit extra never hurts, especially over the holidays. If you’ve got time off to look forward to, you can plan on some rest and relaxation after putting in a bit extra. Just don’t go overboard. After all, the holidays are about quality time with your family more than anything.

The holidays should be an enjoyable time. Walk into the season with a plan and avoid falling into the debt trap.