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How to be debt free

Do You Know How To Avoid The Debt Cliff This Holiday Season?

Let’s talk about giving kids gifts this holiday season and avoiding debt.

How can you help your family enjoy Christmas with less?

And How Many Gifts Do Your Kids Really Need?


Isn’t it amazing how quickly Christmas and the HOLIDAYS comes around again?

It seems we were just shopping and preparing for last years season!

When do you start decorating for the holiday?

When do you start shopping for gifts?

The BIG question?

HOW much MONEY do you spend on Christmas?

When you think about Christmas, is it the gifts, the ‘stuff’ the things that you remember all of your life?

I would guess that we all have a favorite toy, or special present that was meaningful and stayed in our memories over the years.

However, the amount we spend on our kids, our family, our loved ones, our friends, neighbors, co-workers….the list goes on and on of who to buy for…what is that determined from and why?

I’ll explain, but first let me share a story from when I was a girl.

One of my most memorable Christmas gifts was the year that my mom gave my two sisters and me, two gifts.

She was on a very limited budget and we knew that. It was ok, and what were those gifts?

We each were given a box of our favorite cereal.

And our own bottle of favorite soda pop. 

I never felt that we had less, or that we were cheated, or ashamed to tell my friends what my presents were that year.

I was thrilled with what I had and glad to have it.

But I think that comes from knowing that you as a person are more valued than ‘stuff’ or ‘things’.

As this holiday season comes along, where is the focus for your family?




This season, if you decide to do less in gifts and spending, but your family is used to getting more, you want to change that tradition with with purpose and gradually if that’s best for your situation.

Some ways you can spend less and help your family be positive about the experience would be:

  • Make decorations together to save money using what you have in the house, or have a set budget and go together to your local thrift store or any store and see how creative everyone can be with that small set amount and what is made. Be thrilled with the outcome, it will encourage them longer than the decoration will be around:) 


  • Have a calendar of events you would all like to do together that are FREE. Look in the local area for the events happening and plan.


  • Plan nights of games such as card games, board games, dice games and such to be together and not use money going out. Play the games on a blanket in the living room. 


  • Have a few movie nights of Christmas movies. We have our favorites for this time of year such as:  It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, White Christmas and A Christmas Story. What are your family favorites?


  • Cook Together Night. Plan the food that is based on pretty much what is in the  house! It makes it so creative, but if needed, get a few ingredients with a small budget you set for the family to work within. For fun, give each dish a silly name. Then put it on a card for a menu. Put random safe kitchen utensils on the table. As each person orders from the ‘menu’ they are brought their food in that order and have to eat from a utensil drawn from one at the table. It makes for silly fun and great memories.


  • Play Christmas and holiday music to bring in the mood.


  • Create your own family traditions that are meaningful, within your budget and work best for your situation and circumstances.



I do understood what it’s like to not have money to spend at Christmas and wonder what to do.

One Christmas many, many years ago, we had about ten dollars for the four kids Christmas gifts and that was it. It had been a particularly difficult year with job situations, health issues, a brand new baby and other unplanned circumstances. What to do with our small amount of money? We decided to get a cat, the food and litter box.

Stan brought the cat home early Christmas Eve, but it ran away and we could not find it!

Now we didn’t have anything to give our kids!

At that time, there weren’t the shelters, internet, etc., to get a new cat, plus we didn’t have the money to replace it anyway.

Blessedly, Stan’s parents felt impressed to call to check on us, Stan told of our predicament and trying to find the cat. His parents made sure each of our children had something to open from Santa Christmas morning.

If you ever feel the impression to serve and help another, please pray about it, listen close and act. 






Why do we overspend for holidays anyway?

A few possible reasons are:

  1. We want to impress our kids, family, friends, co-workers
  2. We feel it’s a social status maker/breaker
  3. Buys friendship or approval
  4. Fixes relationships or makes up for poor behavior




Ideas for making and staying within a BUDGET:

  • DO not, do NOT, DO NOT get caught up in the hype, hoopla and frenzy of the ads, sales and push to shop Thanksgiving Day or before until Christmas Day.
  • Make a list of the priority people you need to gift to.
  • How much you can/will/want to spend on each gift.
  • Only use a credit card if you will stay within your pre-set budget and can and will pay it off before interest incurs.
  • Another option is to use the envelope method of cash, just be careful not to lose it or let others see the cash; keeps temptation away. The envelope method is when cash is divided into envelopes of a certain amount set to spend in each category/envelope. When it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s it. Done.
  • Make a family agreement for a limited amount to spend and stick to it for immediate AND extended family. Families grow quickly and there are so many people to purchase gifts for that it can easily take up all of your budget, just on the extended family, leaving little or none for your own.
  • For kids, how much do you really need to give them? Kids respect a parent who is responsible and will do the hard and the right thing.
  • Have a potluck dinner or lunch for extended family, co-workers and friends to celebrate the season instead of buying for each.




More ways to save:

1. Make gifts – homemade ones are the best! There are so many creative possibilities when you look on-line. Such as calendars with family pictures, a family favorite recipe made with the recipe to go with it, a favorite treat, the list is endless.

2. Scale down –   Do people really like you better depending on the gift you give them? If that is the case, do yourself a favor and get new friends. Going into debt to impress, or compete with their present to you, or even their expectation of what you should give them; is not worth it. If only makes you resent the person, or what you did in the near future.


3. Watch for sales and specials – shop on the internet to compare prices. Before making purchases, look at authentic ratings and reviews of that particular product to help in making an informed decision. Purchasing the least expensive isn’t always the best in the long run. But you can buy smart and still save money. 

4. Kids do not need everything – or expensive items. Letting them know that Santa or parents have a budget they need to stick to. This teaches them how to budget when they are older, which is a critical life skill. It also diminishes any ‘entitled attitude’ or I ‘deserve it’ attitude, if that is an issue. Remember, even at Christmas time, we are not in a popularity contest, or trying to be our kids ‘bff’. We are a parent to set and show a trusted example of doing the right thing.

5. How many  gifts for the kids – A friend told me about a common practice of giving one gift in each category that they are now following. It simplifies gifts, makes it more meaningful and takes the expenses down quite significantly. Most importantly, helps bring the focus of Christmas to where it should be. 

Here is her list of what her kids receive a gift from in each category, along with a filled stocking. 

  • Something to wear
  • Something to read
  • Something they want
  • Something they need


 6. Looking ahead to next year to save money ahead – as extra money is available for this expense and set aside for this purpose.


  • Purchase after Christmas sales of wrapping paper, cards, ribbons, etc. that you know you will use and need to restock.
  •  Watch for sales during the year of items that you know you can gift to family members or others that come at great prices. Clearance and overstock prices on many items at end of season are usually better than most given during season sales. Put these away for Christmas, but be sure to keep a list and remember where you are stashing them so you don’t duplicate or forget about them.

7. Remember the reason for the season If you do, then all falls into place and your heart will be filled with sweet peace and love. Individually and as a family, be sure to reach out and serve somehow someone. It can be of a little cost, or your time. But remember what Christmas is all about, and teach your children. To help with this, please click HERE and look for the Nativity Lesson. 


Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2019
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.



  • So hard to indeed stick to a budget this time of the year and not going to lie. I do my best, but still struggle. So I totally appreciate the tips and the pep talk, too 😉

  • Carrie,
    I was just talking to my youngest daughter about making a list and our budget. Gift giving can easily get out of hand. I love your suggestion of something to wear, read, want, and need. Thank you for always having such great suggestions.
    Diane Roark

  • Jess says:

    This is such a great post. 🙂
    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!

  • Rachel says:

    Great article! My husband and I actually decided no gifts for each other this year (well, sort of). We are in the middle of renovating the kitchen so that is going to be our present to each other this year. Our families do a set dollar amount and we have a round robin style event so each family only has to buy for 1 other family (kids are separate). It is kind of nice that I don’t break the bank every year. Thanks for sharing on Merry Monday!

  • Such sage advice for anyone. Especially with all the media. I love making handmade gifts. I like all your ideas. Pinning! I have a giveaway going on if you like making your own gifts feel free to pop by and enter! Nice meeting you via G+ hop!

  • Kimberly says:

    Great ideas! Pinned and tweeted. Thank you for being a part of our party. I hope to see you on Monday at 7 pm. It wouldn’t be a party without you!
    Happy Sunday! Lou Lou Girls

  • Melinda says:

    We drew names this year for the adults.

  • I love all of these tips! So important to remember that more stuff and more money doesn’t equal more happiness or more love. In fact there was just a commercial put out by Ikea in Spain (Ikea? Why Ikea did this I don’t know) that had kids write a letter to the Three Kings (Spanish Santa Claus) and to their parents asking what they wanted for Christmas. They asked Santa for Xboxes and stuff, and their parents to spend time doing different things with them, and then at the end they asked the kids whether they wanted to send the Three Kings letter or the letter to their parents. The kids chose the one to their parents!

    • Wow! That shouldn’t surprise any of us, but to actually have it done as a ‘study’ or by a professional group is just amazing to know that our kids truly do want us more than ‘stuff’. I am very grateful you gave us that information about IKEA’s commercial and it really is food for thought. Please keep sharing with us.

  • Jennifer says:

    Such great tips! Christmas is special in itself and we don’t need to put ourselves in debt for the holiday. Thanks for sharing at My Flagstaff Home!

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