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Holiday Gift Guide: What to Buy Without Credit Card Debt

Many parents often ask themselves and each other, “How many gifts do the kids need?” The answer to this question will change from family to family. Additionally, the answer will change depending on age, interest, family goals and the budget. Here is an unofficial holiday gift guide to help you shop while avoiding consumer debt or extra worry.

Avoid debt with ACCC's holiday gift guide!

Avoid debt with ACCC’s holiday gift guide!

Holiday Gift Guide to Avoid Consumer Debt & Extra Worry

Gift Giving Motivation

First, you must decide as an individual, parent or family what you find important when giving gifts. I won’t get too much into this, but try and think through your reasoning and motivations behind giving. You may be surprised. Do you want to give useful gifts? Do you want to show your love? Do you like the surprise? Do you want them to be impressed by the gifts you give? Do you want to adopt a family every year and use some of your money for that? Once you know what and why you like to buy, you will be better prepared to accomplish your holiday goals.

Creating a Holiday Gift Budget

Let’s say you do really love to buy a lot of gifts for others. But, every year you don’t have enough money in the bank account to cover the costs. Typically, you use a credit card or are disappointed with your purchases. What’s the solution?

The best way to tackle your holiday shopping plans is to make sure you have the money using a budget. Our credit counseling advice is to anticipate gift expenses ahead of time. By saving throughout the year for your holiday gift buying needs, you can avoid personal credit card debt. Include a portion of your monthly household budget for Christmas gifts.

When you use a credit card without paying off the monthly balance, it means you don’t actually have that money. While it’s great to give to those you love, it’s not okay to spend beyond your means.

Finally, when you are approaching the actual holiday season, you can assess your plan even more. With the money you already have saved, you may need to increase the monthly amount. Or you may realize you did great and don’t need any extra efforts!

Make a Gift List & Other Holiday Gift Guide Tips

Now we can start answering how much or how many gifts each kid should be getting. Since you know the kind of giving you want to do and how much you have to spend, it’s time to write out your list. Name all the people you want to buy gifts for. Next, write down a few present ideas. Then, you can assign a dollar amount to each person.

The way this holiday gift guide succeeds is by removing some of the emotion and guesswork from your purchases. Knowing the budget for each person and some of the reason you buy gifts will guide you rather than spur of the moment, emotional decisions.

There is a mantra out there to buy the following gifts for each kid: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read, something to do. Rather than buying any kind of thing, you can use this to steer some of your choices. Finally, don’t judge yourself against any unrealistic goal or image of a living room filled with presents under the tree. Strive for thoughtful gifts within your budget.

Here are a few tips to make your budget stretch:

  • Look for used items.
  • Gift unwanted/unused household items.
  • Price match to get the best deal.
  • Consider a few DIY gifts.
  • Give the gift of your time and an experience- like bowling or the movies.
  • Regift your gift cards.
  • Split gift costs with sibling or other family members.
  • Decide to do a Secret Santa instead of everyone buying gifts for each person.
  • Aggressively save throughout the year to build up your purchasing power.

Good luck and happy holidays!

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Michelle is a regular contributor to Talking Cents. She has taken several financial courses on debt management and is ready to circulate what she has learned from them as well as lessons from her own life- family to DIY projects to student loan debt.

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