All I Want for Christmas … Is to Avoid Holiday-Spending Debt

Two people shop at Target.
Lakeisha Carroll, left, shops with her niece, Ceasia Moore at Target in Pinellas Park, Fla. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Don’t let the holiday spirit last all year long.

Sorry, I meant don’t let the holiday debt last all year long.

It’s tough to resist the temptation to spend your way toward making this a fa-la-la-labulous holiday season for everyone you love, but you could be paying for it long after the last jingle bell rocks.

As it turns out, we’re a country full of seasonal spenders.

According to a new poll from, 61% of respondents who already carry a credit card balance said they’re willing to add to it to stuff stockings and put more packages under the tree. And three in five millennials said they’d be willing to go into the red — and we don’t mean Santa’s suit.

Wondering how you can wander in a winter wonderland without winding up in debt? We wrapped up a few of our favorite holiday debt-busting tips to help you hold onto your Rudolphs (Get it? Rudolph was a male deer aka… a buck? OMG, somebody stop me.)

1. Make Money, Not Debt

It’s your first holiday away from your family and friends, so you’re feeling like drowning your sorrows in a little retail therapy. Ho, ho, hold it there. Instead of letting yourself spend your way out of the holiday blues, why not make the most of your time by earning some extra cash over the holidays? Instead of swimming in debt come the new year, you could be using your hard-earned dough from a seasonal part-time job to plan a tropical vacation.

2. Set Limits on the Gifts

Rather than letting your holiday spirit guide your purchases, consider creating a budget this season, starting with assessing how much debt you already have. And sure, you say, you can reason with the adults about fewer gifts, but what about those cherubs with visions of digitally enhanced, animatronic sugarplums dancing in their heads? By instituting a new holiday tradition — like this four-gift rule — you can enjoy the wonder in a child’s eye this season without suffering the pile of holiday debt on your credit card come January.

3. Don’t Drink and Shop

After a couple (ok, six) glasses of eggnog, you might be feeling less inhibited about splurging online. No shame — nearly half of all imbibers admit to shopping while sipping — but that holiday hangover on your credit card statement won’t be cured with a couple of aspirin. Consider switching to the less boozy — and cost-effective — holiday mocktails. You’ll still get in the yuletide spirit but you won’t have to worry about being haunted by the ghost of drunken holiday shopping past.

4. Let It Snow

After scoring some holiday sales, you may feel like you’re sleigh-ing in the debt department — right up until the post-holiday statement reveals how many last-minute purchases you made. Instead of paying and forgetting, play a little elfen mind trick on yourself to get a jump on your post-holiday bills.

Every time you snag a sale — for instance, that ugly Christmas sweater you found for $30 instead of the regularly priced $40 — immediately send the extra cash you saved ($10 in our example) to pay down your credit card bill. It’s called the debt snowflake method, and the key to it is scooping up those mini amounts of money before they melt away into your next purchase.

5. Dance Your Debt Away

If you already know that you’ll be up to your Santa boots in bills by the end of December, but you also know you’ll be back on track, budgetwise, come New Year’s Day, consider doing the balance transfer dance. The steps are even easier than rocking around a Christmas tree: Find a credit card offer with a 0% introductory rate, then transfer your balance and get the debt paid off before the introductory period ends.

And after you wrap up that credit card debt, you’ll be back to your holly jolly self.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. She recognizes that she may have an unhealthy addiction to holiday-themed puns. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.