How to Do Christmas Without Debt

If you are or ever have been plagued by credit card debt, I can nearly guarantee expenses related to Christmas have contributed greatly to that miserable situation. You know I’m right and unless we do something to stop that pattern, things are about to get much worse for you. Christmas is right around the corner.

The problem is procrastination. Face it, when it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait, the more you’ll spend. The opposite is also true. The sooner you get started, the less you’ll spend.

There are simple things you can do to stop procrastinating.

Get started

There’s no use in trying to ignore the fact that 2023 has been a tough year for all of us. And it’s not over yet!

This inflation, the politics; crime on the streets, rising costs, devastating losses by fire and storms—need I go on?—could well stretch into 2024. I’m the first to admit the easiest thing in the world would be to throw three sheets to the wind, decide that we deserve a little happiness in all of the chaos, and just go for it by using up all the credit limits available and try to overcome all we’ve been through. You know, give the kids the best Christmas of their lives—somehow feeling justified in believing, “We’ll deal with the debt later.”

Please don’t do that. It might sound like a reasonable tradeoff today, but I promise that you will regret it soon enough.

Instead, do something positive today to get moving on Christmas, determined you will not spend money you don’t have. Once you are in motion, it will be easier to keep going.

Write it down

Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown and provides a realistic playing field. Set reasonable limits both in time and in money.

Work with the time you have

Make a simple timeline, then break the project down into small, manageable parts. Even five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.

Small deadlines

As an example, give yourself a date one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadlines with someone who will keep you accountable.

Find the simpler way

To minimize the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify. Make room in your holiday plans for relaxation and enjoyment.

Be realistic

A big part of the problem is that the December holidays aren’t just about gifts. There are decorations, holiday clothes, parties and trips, special concerts and plays, postage for cards and parcels, and, of course, all that food. The obvious solution is not to spend a lot of money on any of these things. Think about alternative ways to make the holidays happy.

Any time of the year is the best time of the year to start thinking about the most wonderful time of the year. This far out, the pressure is off so you can think clearly. A stress-free debt-free Christmas is likely the very best gift you can give yourself and your family.

Woman giving a thumbs up on no christmas credit card debt white background

Let’s do this together

It’s been 31 years since I launched the Cheapskate Monthly newsletter. Lots has changed since then—and that’s quite an understatement! What hasn’t changed is that credit card debt is like cancer—or runaway virus. It begins small and seems to be quite manageable. Then it starts to grow, and grow. It multiplies and very soon gets out of hand, taking over and changing our lives.

A better idea is that we nip this in the bud to stop even the thought of going into debt right now. Find better ways to accomplish the same goal. And let’s do this together! How? I have a few ideas:

  1. Don’t miss a single EC daily newsletter. Open the email, click through to the post, and read it! Not all will be Christmas related, but all devoted to saving time and money every day! This is the way to stay motivated.
  2. Leave a comment, share your tips and ideas. Renew your commitment, share your challenges.
  3. Share the daily posts. Click on the buttons, tell your friends and family about EC, and encourage them to subscribe! This will help all of us to keep EC alive and well.
  4. Participate in our coming GIVEAWAYS (gonna’ be so great!). Spread the word.
  5. Stick close! I’m going to make sure you have all you need to reach your goals, with ideas and how-tos to make awesome gifts, finding alternatives to pricey options, and doing things differently. Need more ideas? I’m working feverishly on our 2023 Holiday Gift Idea Guides—not to encourage and nudge you into debt, but to give you ideas for gifts that will fit into your Holiday budget.


And now, it’s time to gather into one enormous huddle to renew our collective commitment to no new debt this holiday season. Are you with me?

Ready … Set … Let’s GO!


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  1. Nancy says:

    Hi Mary, I have been reading your newsletter for years and I really enjoy all the tips. On January 1 2020, I set up an automatic transfer from my main credit union to a second credit union I belong to but don’t use that much of $60 per week ($12 per day 5 days per week). This is what I would normally spend on coffee and lunch from the Cafe at my office building. So instead of buying lunch everyday I started bringing my lunch, drank the free coffee in the breakroom and the $12 I would have spent, I started saving. So I am happy to report when I start my shopping around the middle of December, I will have $3,000. Not that I am going to spend every penny but it is a great feeling to know that I don’t have to use my credit cards at all. I will continue with this automatic transfer going forward. Just wanted to share my Christmas savings tip. =)

  2. N says:

    I have followed you since your days of writing for Woman’s Day! I just recently threw out the articles that I had saved in plastic page protectors lol. All your information is now online so no need to have binders sitting around! Your information is timeless and just as useful as it was all those years ago. I look forward to your gift guide for 2020! Thank you.

  3. teresa says:

    I have a question more so than advice. i am over 70 and make some really nice crafts! there are usually fairs, festivals, or flea markets where i can sell them! obviously, with the pandemic that has put a damper on making any money. I am not tech savvy enuf to put on any sites! any suggestions as to where i might sell my crafts! thanks

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