How we are surviving the holidays without Credit Cards

If you don’t pay your credit card balance in full each month and/or you are on a debt-free journey then this article it for you

Christmas 2009 – This year I have made it the ‘holiday without credit cards’ or store cards for that matter – we are on a cash only basis. And let me tell you that it is not easy within a world deemed convenient for shoppers! Many times, I wish I could just slip up, but that would defeat the matter of becoming debt free. I wanted to let you know how we are surviving the holidays without credit cards. (and I am sure we are doing it all backwards)

Creating a budget for Christmas

Wrong! We didn’t budget at all for Christmas this year! So, I have this summer fund whose intentions are to be used for stuff like this, but we blew it all during summer paying for school charges and enjoying summer. I think I was secretly hoping the holiday shopping season wouldn’t come. LOL.

Now we are buying gifts out of our *Cash Allowance. Let me tell you, this does not leave much cash to be dispersed for holiday shopping! After groceries and gas for the week…it’s tight. But, we are managing by buying a few gifts each week. I’ve spent about $100 on each kid and am hoping the family will spoil them further.

And if we run out of money (which we’ve been doing by ending up with a few dollars left in our account each week), then we have to wait til next payday. No whipping out the cards until ‘next week’. Doesn’t work that way!


Make your own frugal gifts


Making gifts for the holidays

Wrong! I have this great post about Frugal Gifts for Christmas where my intentions were to start some cool crafts for family and friends. Ya… no, I started maybe one or two, but they are undone crafts sitting in a box.

Okay, okay. Here is what I am doing right – making Christmas cookies for friends and family gifts. They are going to get an assortment of cookies; snickerdoodles, oatmeal raisin walnut, russian tea cakes, sugar, and russian tea cakes. I may even throw in a glass of milk ๐Ÿ˜‰

Limited holiday spending amounts

Definitely. Coworkers – I could have baked a bunch of goods, but my friend proved it’s difficulty to bake during a busy holiday work week – instead I spent $3 each on a box of chocolates or Danish butter cookies. Simple, no stress. Costs approx $30 for 10 coworkers.

Kids & Husband – limited to $100 each.

Prioritizing Gift Buying

Two larger expenditures are going to be made for charitable reasons – gifts that are definitely needed. I am looking at spending $120 all together.

Each year, a foster mom puts a big box at our local restaurant for toy donations for the foster kids in the area. This is near and dear to my heart being raised in foster homes. Foster kids need to know they are loved while going thru a difficult situation. I want to help with that reason.

Then at the restaurant, we like to buy breakfast for a senior or two as we are walking out the door. We secretly tell the waitress its on us. I’ve never seen the recipient’s reaction, but I hope its a generous smile.

And there is my daughter’s school. We are buying a class gift of paper, pencils, crayons, and hand sanitizer. Budget cuts have definitely put a strain on the school system – I am just hoping to make things a bit easier.

Ho Ho Ho

Spending more time with people instead of at the store

Yup! we strolled the Festival of Lights in my area and tonight we are strolling a neighborhood full of holiday lights.

I’ve been invited to make tamales and drink wine with the girls – this is great because the costs are split between us and we have a great time.

We also spend time watching holiday movies on the Lifetime and Hallmark channel, while drinking hot cocoa.

Then there is spending time with friend’s at holiday parties, spending time with the kids when they help me make dinner, the cookie making get together and going to church for Midnight Mass (haven’t done this in years!).


I won’t lie, it’s not easy having a frugal Christmas. I want to shop without boundries as much as the next person. But we’ve become pretty serious about paying off our debt this year and I don’t want to mess that up.

We might be doing this frugal Christmas thing backwards, but the key point is that we are surviving the holidays without credit cards or store cards (ya Wells Fargo! Just because you raised our credit limit yesterday to $15,700 and recently raised our APR to 22% doesn’t mean I’m gonna get suckered by you!).

I am not getting suckered in to paying an additional debt sentence of 6 years.

I know the kids may feel the downer of not opening tons of gifts, but they will understand the importance when we are debt free.

And I know many people are hurting this year due to budget cuts, job losses, etc… I am glad to know that we have the resources to help out a bit (I wish we could do so much more).

How is your holiday season coming along? Are you on budget? Not accruing any new debt? Would love to hear!

*Cash Allowance: funds left over for the use of groceries, gas, entertainment, oil changes, hair cuts… that weekly spending stuff.

16 thoughts on “How we are surviving the holidays without Credit Cards

  1. Alice

    We are with you on a frugal Christmas… it’s hard, but we are doing ok and trying to focus on ‘time together’ and making it fun. The problem is getting everyone around you who are also part of your Christmas to understand that we want to be frugal!!!! I am making felt brooches, scarves, relish, lemon curd and cranberry sauce… but we did indulge in THE most delicious mint hot chocolates at a local cafe after the big light switch on last weekend ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here’s to a happy Christmas and no sinking feeling afterwards about spending too much money ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

    1. money funk

      Your frugal gifts sound so awesome! “…lemon curd and cranberry sauce” Have me hooked! Want my address? LOL. You know, I love lemons and I’ve never had lemon curd yet. I even have a recipe for it. Something seriously wrong with me! LOL.

      Mint hot chocolate…mmmm… I did indulge in a few thin mint shots at my friends the other weekend. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Happy Christmas to you with no associate guilt for have a frugal Christmas with family! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Shtinkykat

    No budget? I guess I don’t have a budget either but I do not how much I’m willing to spend for each person, so I guess I have a de facto budget. But kudos to you for having a cc-free X’mas!

    1. money funk

      Noooo… we just kind of winged it this year. I like that, “a de facto budget”. Thanks! I mean, if we paid our CC in full it would be a different story – we wouldn’t have all this debt under out belt to deal with in the first place. LOL.

      BTW, I like the new set up you have over at your blog! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. The Lost Goat

    I’m staying within my toy budget … barely. I made myself a very short list of who would get presents and am now trying to stick to it. And trying not to buy that “one more cute thing” for my little brother or my husband – always a challenge for me this time of year.

    1. money funk

      Oh, I know that ‘one more cute thing’ syndrome! I try so hard to just walk out of the store buying only what I came for. And it doesn’t help they stick all the cute stuff up front! I think it’s a challenge for all of us. I would love to shop like a rich person, but I realize that I am not. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Stick with it girlie – well make it – and we will come out okay.

  4. Sharon

    I had a budget but I already exceeded it by $300.00. I’m trying to see what I purchased that I may be able to return. There is one item in particular that we purchased for our daughter and we decided on something else. The item (a shiatzu back massager with heat) can be used for the whole family, but, do we really need to spend $150? Also, we purchased an expensive lego set for my son…around $90.00. I’m thinking that he doesn’t need that because we purchased other things for him. I go back and forth on this.

    It doesn’t help that I’m not the least bit in the mood for Christmas. I think it’s awesome that you are having an all cash Christmas. We are putting everything on our AMEX Blue card, and paying it completely off on the 15th. (We get 5% cash back on our purchases, so it is deferring the cost a bit). Using cash is probably a better idea!

    1. money funk

      *gasps* Over $300 ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      I don’t blame you on the legos – they have some cool sets – and their website sucks you in too! I feel there is a guilt associated with keeping up with the Joneses, and keeping up with last year’s momentum, and just being a parent. Trust me, I am feeling like I am letting my kids down even though they have a room full of stuff that screams they don’t need it! I also completely understand why they put oranges and apples in the stockings – I am totally up for it.

      See CCs are okay, if you can pay if off in full. Me, I don’t have that ability.

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just have a plan for recovering the over expenditures after the holidays (one less eating out trip, etc…). ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Jeff

    HaHa I love the “Ya…No” in the post. Thanks for being so honest. This is the first xmas I’ve actually included in a budget. Of course this is the first xmas I’ve ever had a budget. We started in May to sock away $28 a payday and that actually amounted to a half-way decent amount. We are complete with the shopping and even have $50 left.

    Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. money funk

      LOL. Thanks! Budgets are nice. I put away $35 biweekly in a summer fund that equates to about $900. They release it in July – it was originally suppose to be used for back to school funds and Christmas expenditures, but it’s been changed throughout time. So, next year I need to make a separate slot for Christmas gifts in the budget.

      Congrats on finishing the shopping with money left! Maybe it calls for a nice dinner out with your wife? ๐Ÿ™‚ Now off to go see your NW post.

  6. Jeff@MySuperChargedLife

    Way to go! My hat is off to you for your commitment to becoming debt-free. My wife and I paid off all our debt except our mortgage a couple of years ago. It is awesome living without debt. You’ll be so happy you did it. It takes a little sacrifice, but it is all well worth the effort. The thing is your Christmas will be just as special as if you’d spent $1,000s!

    1. money funk

      Thanks! It just kicked in one day because I came to the realization that there is so much more I want to do with my life than be locked up by my own doings. Congrats to No debt! I don’t know about a little sacrifice. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I am glad to know that it is worth all the effort! I need that knowledge.

      Happy Holidays!

  7. Tara

    Times are tough this year so it’s great to hear some ways to get through the holidays in one piece while remembering the things that are truly important (like spending time with loved ones). In my group of friends we all decided to make wishlists on with the stipulation that nothing on our lists can be over $20. This is a great way to gather gift ideas that are easy on the wallet, plus they have an option to buy any of the gifts as cash, so the recipient can decide whether they’d rather have the gift they picked out or the cash amount to use however they like. I’m probably going to give the cash option since these are such uncertain times–I figure it’s always nice to have options!

    1. admin

      Hi Tara, thanks for stopping by.

      What a great idea! Then you end up with a whole plethera of $20 or less gift ideas.

      I tend to side more with the gift instead of the cash option. Christmas only comes once a year – and I think presents are the way to go. I’m finicky on the idea of cash as a gift, even in this age of gift cards. Well, except for my teenage son – when i absolutely have no clue on what to get – a gift card or cash can go a long ways. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thank you for sharing such a smart idea!

  8. Small Town Runner

    This is also our first no-credit Christmas! I don’t think we put a lot on credit cards for Christmas gifts in the past, but if we overspent for Christmas, other things would have to go on credit. Not smart! We didn’t have an overall Christmas budget, but we did determine over several weeks how much we could spare for gifts. We just saved up that cash and had it to spend. I think we may actually have a little extra — but hubby’s birthday is in March, so I may try to hang on to the cash until then! I did make gifts for the women in my life, and hubby has plans for homemade gifts for the men. I’m already considering some knitting projects for family for next year!

    1. admin

      Well, my husband’s bday is 3 days after Christmas. He has no idea, but this military aficianado, is getting a trip to the Ronald Reagan Library (he’s gonna love it!). And it’s $12 per person + lunch. Not too shabby.

      How do you feel about not using the credit cards this year? Has it been tough for you? I see that you’re going to have money left over. That’s great! I also think it’s great you are both making homemade gifts for the men and women in your life. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Does Chef have a favorite holiday treat recipe to share?

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