Money Saving Tips for a Debt Free Christmas
By Jenna Rehnstrom | November 12, 2014
Sioux City, IA (ABC9 News) - If cash was as easy to come by as open properties in Monopoly, we'd all be rich.
But, for the Holmes family, money matters are no game. They take budgeting seriously, and they're reaping the rewards.
"I think when you have a budget and you have a plan, it stretches your money; you feel like you have more money when you have a plan," Jill Holmes says.
For seven years, Matt and Jill have stuck to a strict financial plan when it comes to Christmas. They account for every dollar on a spreadsheet, so there's no excuse to overspend. And they spread out their Christmas shopping starting in October.
"We make a grand list of everybody we're going to buy Christmas gifts for - this includes Sunday school teachers, teachers at school, the postwoman, neighbors, whoever it is - relatives, obviously, we make a complete list and sit down together, Jill and I, and we start hashing out the amounts," says Matt.
The Holmes weren't always this committed to living debt free. Like many young couples, they acquired thousands of dollars in debt after college.
According to American Consumer Credit Counseling, the average American carries over $8,000 of credit card debt. And, each year, the average American spends more than $900 on Christmas.
In fact, more than a quarter of people in our country have more debt on their credit cards than they have in savings.
"When you're not feeling that hit; when it's on a credit card, you can just totally overspend and impulse buy and justify it in your mind and then January and February and March roll around and - and we used to do that - and it would literally be thousands, that you'd come back with that you'd have interest on and debt and a sick feeling in your stomach," Matt says.
12 years of marriage and three kids later, Matt and Jill have found that making sacrifices and spending within their means is the foundation for a debt free family.
But, a strict holiday budget means some items on their kids' Christmas wish lists won't be under the tree.
"For my son, last year, he wanted a big-ticket item, and we have a certain amount that we spend on them and that was his whole amount, and so we had a really serious conversation with him, 'do you just want one gift?' And he said, 'yeah, I do'," says Jill.
Teaching their kids the value of a dollar... these parents are also reinforcing what the holidays are all about. And that has very little to do with cash or credit.
"Gifts are fun and they're loving and they're nice, but it's not what it's all about, you know?" Matt comments.
The Holmes family has a Christmas tradition that is a hit with the kids - and it's only possibly because they budget and use their money so wisely over the holidays. Every year on Christmas morning, they go out for breakfast to a different restaurant after opening presents and whoever they get for a waiter or waitress gets a $100 dollar tip.
Hear the kids' reaction to that tradition by clicking on the video link.
Even if you've already started Christmas shopping or haven't started budgeting, it's not too late to implement a few easy tips when it comes to holiday spending.
Jeremy Craighead, Senior Vice President at Security National Bank, says credit cards can be great tools, but take care to stay accountable for that credit card spending.
Because credit cards are so easy to get, they tend to be over-used or not used properly. And, whether you use credit cards or not - budgeting is key.
"Budget and planning go a long way, so a good tactic to use is maybe use this year as your benchmark year - kind of get an idea of what you're going to spend for Christmas, and then start saving for it come January first and every month set a little bit aside so you know what your expenses are going to be, so when you get to October and November, you're self-financing, if you will, and you're ready to go ," says Jeremy Craighead, Senior Vice President at Security National Bank.
Craighead also says Security National does community outreach with young people to teach them how to use credit cards responsibly, so if they do use them as adults, they know the best way to do so.