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6 Steps to Enjoying a Debt-Free Holiday Season

By Melanie Lockert
November 16, 2020
  1. Come up with a holiday budget
  2. Score deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  3. Use a debit card or secured card
  4. DIY your decorations and gifts
  5. Earn extra money with a side hustle
  6. Focus on free experiences over things

This year might look a little different when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Your income and work hours may have been affected by the pandemic, or you may feel like you’re not ready to travel or be in groups of people right now (which is totally okay!) Money aside, maybe your old holiday haunts are closed or you’re just feeling a bit Scrooge-y this year. Sound familiar? Don’t fret. In this guide, we’ll walk you through six steps to enjoy the holidays on a budget, and stay away from new kinds of debt.

Come up with a holiday budget

Whether you’re currently dealing with debt or not, one thing is for sure: You don’t want to add any to your life this holiday season. In 2020, there’s already enough to stress about, amirite? That’s why it’s super key to come up with a holiday budget that works for you

  • Look at your income: How much is going into your bank account each month? 
  • Look at all of your expenses: Consider rent, food, insurance, gas, etc.
  • Do the math: Subtract your expenses from your income and see how much you have left. (That’s the pool of money that you can allocate for the holidays -but it doesn’t mean you have to spend it all!) 
  • Make a list: Write down any travel that may be required for the holidays (with a mask, obvs) as well as all of the people you’d like to buy gifts for. 
  • Research: See what the travel costs would be for your prospective budget and then you can assign each person a dollar amount. 

So for example, you might have $300 budgeted for travel and you want to get gifts for five family members—at $20 per person. That’s a total of $400. 

If your pool of money doesn’t cover that, here are a few more options. You can:

  • Side hustle to cover the total cost of travel and gifts.
  • Look for deals on travel and gifts, especially with Black Friday.
  • Lower the gift amount per person.
  • Skip gifts altogether and create “coupons” for a date night, babysitting services, doing laundry, helping out around the house.
  • Make or bake something from what you already have.

Taking these steps can help you enjoy the holidays on a budget in a way that fits your life. And if you can’t actually buy gifts and your budget is zero because your income is low or zero? Remember: These are hard times and we can all appreciate the present of presence and a handwritten, thoughtful note.

Score deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Once you have a holiday spending plan in place and know who you want to get gifts for, you can be strategic by searching for sales. One of the best times to score big discounts on items? Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Here are a few quick tips to score the best deals on the net:

  • Stay focused: Make a list of the items you want to get.
  • Compare prices: Do a quick search to make sure you’re getting the lowest deal.
  • Check your inbox: Keep an eye out for promotional newsletters,additional discount codes, or free shipping info.
  • Save automatically: Use sites like Honey or Rakuten to score more automatic discounts or cash back on your purchases.

If you’re experiencing a cash flow issue, remember: Chime members can also take advantage of the Get Paid Early direct deposit program: A super-easy way to get your hard-earned dough a little early.

Use a debit card or secured card

In order to avoid credit card debt, some recommend using cash. In the before times, pre-pandemic, that might have worked. You’d be able to get into a store and use your cash. But now? Seemingly everything has moved online, which means cards are king. 

What are you to do? The good news is that you don’t have to default to using a credit card, potentially spending more and getting into debt. Instead, you can use your debit card – which is attached to your checking account and takes out the cash you have. Debit cards offer all the convenience of credit cards while having the benefits of cash, to stay out of debt. 

Another option? A secured card—which uses a cash deposit as your credit limit so, even if you’re tempted by a sale, you can’t go too crazy on the spending. Secured credit cards are also a good way to build credit, especially if you’re just starting out. 

DIY your decorations and gifts

Looking for more? A pretty-creative way to save money is to DIY your decorations and gifts. 

For starters, slide into your local dollar store; The one in my neighborhood is already stocked with wreaths, decorations, and all kinds of other holiday items. 

If you’re feeling crafty, you can also make a masterpiece  of your own! Not only can it save you money, it can also be a fun way to spend time with the fam. See some ideas below: 

Earn extra money with a side hustle

If you’ve already scrimped every way you could, your next option is to earn extra money. 

For example, you can check out these eight side hustles. Right now Instacart is a popping gig, as many people are staying home and out of the stores. You can also do something similar with Postmates and Uber eats, but with smaller delivery orders from restaurants. 

If you’re a writer, designer, voice-over artist, transcriber, translator — or pretty much anything you could do online — you can check out Fiverr and Upwork to score online gigs. 

Earning extra money through a side gig can boost your overall income and help you stay debt-free this holiday season. 

Enjoy your debt-free holiday season

Let’s be real: This year doesn’t need any more stress added to it, especially the financial kind. We’re here to remind you that it is possible to enjoy the holidays and come out on the other side without owing money. Take these six steps and you’ll be on your way to a merry, jolly, debt-free holiday season! 💚

Focus on free experiences over things

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that your circumstances can change at any moment—so we should enjoy the little things and the people around us. 

One way to do that this holiday season is to focus on experiences over things. It’s a way to embrace your time with loved ones, and it can be totally free! Here are a few creative thought-starters for you: 

  • Make a living room fort with your family.
  • Have a Zoom holiday party.
  • Use Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) to watch holiday films with friends at the same time from the comfort of your own home. 
  • Do a cookie swap with friends and drop it off at each other’s doors. 
  • Have a gift card exchange. 
  • Sing Christmas carols with friends or community groups over Zoom. 
  • Have a living room dance party to holiday jams. 
  • Write holiday cards to kids in hospitals, seniors in senior centers, etc. 
  • Go on a drive to view Christmas lights. 
  • Organize a fundraiser for community organizations in need. 

Using these tips as your guide, you can have fun, do good, connect with friends and family, and celebrate the holidays without worrying about your wallet! 


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