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Celebrate a Cash-Only Christmas

The following post is from Christina of Northern Cheapskate:

Christmas gift
photo credit: Jonas N via Flickr

The saying ‘Tis better to give than receive’ may not be true for you if you’re using credit cards to pay for gifts.

If you put $600 on a credit card with 18.99% interest during the holidays, you could easily end up paying for Christmas for more than 4 years.   Plus, you’ll pay an additional $253 in interest!

Chances are you (and possibly even the recipient) won’t remember what those gifts were by the time you get them paid off.

There is a better way to give.  You can have a cash-only Christmas, even if you don’t feel like you have any cash, and even if you don’t shop year-round for gifts.

Getting Started

Start by making a list of everyone on your gift list.  If you typically give gifts to your children’s teachers, day-care staff, etc., be sure to include them on your list, too.  You can use the Life Your Way free printable holiday planning pages to help you get it all down on paper.

Once you’ve made your list, take a good hard look at it. Do you dread buying gifts for your nieces and nephews?  Talk to your siblings. Maybe they feel the same way.  You could arrange a name draw or give a family gift instead.  There are plenty of ways to get creative with gift exchanges, and they can save you a lot of money and time.

When your list is final, set a dollar amount you would like to spend on each person. Jot down potential gift ideas for each person.  Be reasonable!  Remember that you’re not going to use plastic, so it has to be a workable number for your budget.

Take that number and divide it by the number of weeks you have to shop.  This is how much money you will have to save each week to be able to pay cash for Christmas.

Finding the Funds

Now comes the work. You’re going to have to get creative.

Sell some stuff.   Have a garage sale or list items for sale on Craigslist or eBay. Put some kids clothing and gear on consignment. Cash in your aluminum cans or haul in scrap metal from your garage.

Scrounge up some change.  Check under the couch cushions, your jacket pockets, and out in the car for change. We throw all our spare change into a jar and periodically cash it in.  Other folks put every $5 they come across into a jar.  It really starts to add up after awhile.

Pick up a side gig.  You could look for a part-time seasonal job, but if that’s not possible, pick up some extra cash babysitting, house-sitting, dog-sitting, or housecleaning.  Get creative and make some money on Fiverr. Use a skill you have to make a little extra cash. For example, if you’re a photography buff, you could offer to take Christmas card photos for friends and family and design their cards.

There are plenty of ways to find a little bit of cash if you know where to look.

Shop Smart

You’ve worked hard for your money, so spend it wisely!

Match coupons up to sale prices.  Shop the clearance section. Make a homemade gift.  Thrift stores can be sources of very meaningful and unique gifts.  Save money when shopping online by using cash back sites like Ebates and finding free shipping deals.   Shop with cash (or a prepaid debit card or gift card if you’re shopping online) so that you won’t overspend.

The holidays should be a season of joy, not stress and fear.  Celebrate a cash-only Christmas and enjoy the season without being afraid of your mailbox in January.

Do you try to pay cash for Christmas? What works for you?

Christina Brown is the creator of Northern Cheapskate, a blog dedicated to frugal living through coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas. She lives in the rural north woods of Minnesota where she clips coupons, pinches pennies, and chases her three boys (a 7-year-old and twin 5-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom.