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!

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