Affording Holiday Gifts Without Five Months of Bills

Affording Holiday Gifts Without Five Months of Bills

One of my favorite Christmas songs of all time is "The Twelve Pains of Christmas." Yes, you read that right. It's a parody song in which different singers lament things at Christmas that are a pain to them, such as rigging up the lights and trying to find a parking space. It's actually a pretty funny take on everyday life around the holidays.

One "pain" at Christmas the song brings up is "five months of bills." For some of us, this really isn't too far off the mark. However, this doesn't have to be our reality. Here are some ways you can afford gifts this Christmas without taking out a second mortgage. Or selling your first born.

Be Budget Wise

It's so easy to get caught up in the "Aunt Jane & Uncle John spent this amount on us, we should spend the same." While this line of thinking isn't bad, it can put a strain on tight budgets. Gifts should be given from the heart, not dictated by the wallet. This year, resolve to set a holiday gift budget and then stick to it. If you want to spend, say, $15 per each niece and nephew, make this your target – and do not go over!

Having a cap on your gift spending doesn't mean that your gifts have to be extra cheap or chintzy. In fact, this is the time of year that retailers want you to come out and spend, and they've slashed prices to encourage you to do so. Whereas your $15 might have bought one shirt a few months ago, with the sales going on right now, you could potentially turn that amount into two shirts, an outfit, a few CD's, etc.

Put Away The Plastic

When you've figured out a budget, give some thought to paying with gifts this year with cash only. There's something about having actual cold, hard cash in hand that reinforces the budget idea. When you pay with a credit card, it makes it that much easier to go over budget because it gives you the temptation to, as Scarlett O'Hara would say, think about it tomorrow. Paying cash is a nice way to stick to your budget and avoid months of minimum payments long after the Christmas decorations have been packed away.


A few of the major retailers have jumped on the layaway bandwagon. This enables the shopper to buy gifts such as toys and jewelery and pay a small amount up front if footing the whole lump sum isn't feasible. The store then holds the merchandise, and the shopper can make payments as able until the total is paid; at that time, the buyer can haul home their treasure.

This is a nice option if you have room in each pay period to use for gifts but don't have enough to pay for, say, a lot of gifts at stellar prices all at once. Instead of relying on credit cards with sky high interest rates, you can pay cash for your stuff according to a budget as you're able. The end result is the same: you still get your loot to pass out on the big day; it's just spread out over time and might require another trip to the store.

It is possible to get through the holidays without months of bills ready to greet you in the new year. A little planning and budget discipline can be the key to gift giving without breaking the budget.

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femmefrugality's picture

femmefrugality wrote:

Mon, 12/12/2011 - 16:58 Comment #: 1

Love it! Great post title! We always have a budget, but this year we're coming in under (thank goodness....we really need to.) I keep telling the BF that just because we found great sales and did really well doesn't mean we need to SPEND the rest of the budget....we got some good stuff. We have other things to spend money on (read: January bills....)

Melinda Gregory's picture

Melinda Gregory wrote:

Fri, 12/16/2011 - 22:21 Comment #: 2

Hi femmefrugality... great job on coming un under the budget! There is so much stuff out there & so many good deals that it is tempting to go over!!