7 ways to escape holidays debt-free

With the holiday season in full swing, it can be tough to walk the line between holding onto your money and spreading Christmas cheer. Constance White of Essence magazine shares her tips to help you ease the financial stress and keep everyone happy at the same time.

The holidays are supposed to be about joy, Constance White, Essence Magazine's Editor-in-Chief told TODAY. All too often, though, in our urge to spread that joy, we end up loading up on credit card debt. To help ease the financial stress while keeping everyone happy, here are Constance's 7 tips for a debt-free holiday.

1. Prepare a spending plan
Decide on a total amount you're going to spend on presents. Write that number down and divide it by the number of people you're buying presents for. Voila, that's the total you can spend on each person. No guilt, no stress, everyone gets treated fairly and best of all, you stay in budget.

2. Search online for coupons and free shipping
Before you buy anything online or off, search first to see if there's coupons for it. The coupon app SnipSnap is also great for finding and loading coupons into your mobile phone. You can even scan them and use right in the store from your device.

3. Get social
Find some deal mavens with Twitter feeds, blogs, or Facebook pages, like Bargain Shopper Mom, you can follow to learn about the latest bargains. They do all the hard work while you sit back, perhaps with a glass of vino in one hand, and scoop up their findings. Retailers are also releasing certain shopping deals exclusively through their online channels, so it can be worth checking out their pages on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.

4. Use your rewards
Don't forget all those reward points you've been racking up on your credit card. Now is the time to use them, and your membership powers. For instance, American Express cardholders heading to grandma's house by airplane instead of sleigh can earn double points for booking when booking through membershiprewards.com.

5. Start early
The best sale items are usually put out early in the morning, so you'll need an early start to snag them. By getting going first thing, you'll also beat the rush while other shoppers are still in their jammies finishing their waffles.

6. Use cash
Withdraw all the money you're going to use on in-store holiday shopping, put in an envelope, and only pay for your items in cash. Once the envelope is empty, you have to stop shopping. Leave the plastic at home so you're not tempted to goose your spending with a little extra.

7. Shrink stress
Unwind after a full day of shopping with a little home spa time. Light some candles, draw a bath, and treat yourself to some rejuvenation. Ahhh, holidays. Now recharge and get ready for the next wave!


Discuss this post

I only know one way to stay debt free, if I don't have the money I DON'T buy.

  • 9 votes
Reply#1 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:47 PM EST

Only a moron would go into debt to buy worthless crap for someone else...don't be a moron this season

  • 9 votes
Reply#2 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:12 PM EST

This article could have been shortened to one sentence: If you can't afford it, you don't buy it!

  • 7 votes
Reply#3 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:46 PM EST

At some time every Christmas season, I think of a cartoon I saw in Playboy in ’69. It showed two young boys sitting in front of the tree with toys and wrapping scattered around. One boy was saying to the other one, “The thing that bothers me is knowing that thirty years from now, I’ll be slaving away at some lousy job so I can afford to buy a bunch of crap like this for my children.”

  • 7 votes
Reply#4 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:35 PM EST

do what my family did, agree a couple years ago to not exchange gifts at all. There are no children in our family so, it didnt make sense. We get together and enjoy each others company. Period. NO DEBT!!!

  • 5 votes
Reply#5 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:05 PM EST

Thats what we do too. Everyone already has what they need, and we pretty much have what we want. So enjoy the holidays.

    #5.1 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:37 PM EST

    This holiday has lost all cultural meaning.... it was originally a Pagan holiday, taken over by Christians... now it has been taken from Christians to promote materialism.

    There is no rational reason to incur debt for a holiday, or even spend money that could be used for more practical needs.... you can still be with your family without all the material items.

    • 1 vote
    Reply#6 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:39 PM EST

    A lot of these things might be common sense to myself, and others posting here, but it might not be to others. Also, sometimes reading an article helps these concepts "sink in" for people. Although not particularly helpful for me, I am sure there are some folks that found this helpful, and one more informed consumer is a good thing in my book.

      Reply#7 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:37 PM EST

      This must be the worst article i have read, so stupid!!!! If anyone needs to read this to pass Christmas with no additional debt they deserve all the debt they accumulate

      • 2 votes
      Reply#8 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:33 PM EST

      We enjoy the gift exchange and filling stockings. We always bought the kids gifts and drew names if you were 17 or older. This is the first year everyone is over 17. The older adults buy little trinkets through the year, wrap them and then we play games for the pile of little gifts. It is so much better now.

      • 3 votes
      Reply#9 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:53 PM EST

      Best to give than to receive - I'm making a donation to Advent Conspiracy, charity that builds fresh water wells in 3rd world countries. My entire church is committed to spending less and donating. Or you can give to the surivors of Hurrican Sandy via the Red Cross. The point is to spend less on frivolous gifts and give where it can make a difference.

        Reply#10 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:28 PM EST

        Not Seven Ways - Eight Ways = Don't celebrate Christmas. It's not in the Bible anyway so this practice does NOT originate with God, it originates with man who is interested in separating you from your money!

          Reply#11 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:58 PM EST

          Since I have Pagan roots, I will celebrate the solstice. I will celebrate the circle of life and death. I will celebrate my family with my family. Since I have German Heritage, I will have a tree in my living room, as that was a tradition from Germany, not from God. Since I am an agnostic, I will celebrate anything.

            #11.1 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:20 PM EST

            I guess GONE ARE THE DAYS when families opened up X-Mas clubs & saved all year so that they could only spend what they saved as CASH! Credit was practically unheard of. Of course if you don't celebrate holidays you REALLY SAVE!

              Reply#12 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:24 PM EST

              No, X-mas accounts are alive and well. I did that when the kids were small, but now I don't even shop for Christmas. I buy little things for birthdays, but Christmas is the time to sit back and enjoy each others company.

                #12.1 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:40 PM EST

                Only one rule is necessary: Don't buy worthless crap you don't need with money you don't have.

                • 2 votes
                Reply#13 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:22 PM EST

                Only one way. Buy everyone something you know they could use. (Buy towels.)

                  Reply#14 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 9:51 PM EST

                  I read the article. I want the two minutes of my life back.

                    Reply#15 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:07 PM EST

                    I'd like to share the following:

                    1. Adult Children: For anybody who's over the age of 21 and on their own, Christmas gifts are an option, not an "obligation". Our parents did their job so anything we get as adults is strictly voluntary. We're talking about gifts, not court ordered child support. But with the way some people carry on, you'd think it is.

                    2. Grandchildren: Consult with their parents and honor their wishes and feelings. I know a lot of people feel, especially grandparents, that they're entitled to "spoil" their grandchildren and buy them whatever they want. But all I've seen it do is cause a lot of tension as well as debt. If their parents have told you to just buy a pair of pajamas then so be it! Your grandchildren will survive quite nicely without you spending hundreds of dollars on them.

                    3. Yourself: Put yourself at the top of your list and treat yourself to a massage or facial etc. It doesn't have to be anything big. Putting yourself first is a good reminder that you count and I've also learned I should never treat somebody better if I'm not willing to treat myself just as well.

                    Peace and Happy Holidays!

                      Reply#16 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:25 PM EST

                      #8. Stay out of the stores.

                        Reply#17 - Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:24 PM EST

                        This article is inane and sappy, as are most pieces that offer "tips".

                          Reply#18 - Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:33 AM EST

                          Try to use cash instead of credit cards and avoid being a compulsive buyer.

                          Happy Holiday!



                            Reply#19 - Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:40 PM EST

                            i do not buy presents. if i give presents at all, i make them myself. as for christmas, the whole situation is insane. the real reason for the season, as they say, has all but vanished. it was indeed a pagan celebration of the winter solstice before the christians highjacked it and now it belongs to corporate america. i was so excited when the election was over to not be bombarded by political ads, but the christmas ads are worse!

                              Reply#20 - Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:05 PM EST
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