Law Offices of W. George Senft


Handling the Holidays with Debt

The holidays can bring to mind memories of favorite foods, important traditions, and relaxing with friends and family. For many of us, this also includes exchanging gifts, but this can be stressful if you don’t have much money to spend. If you’re dealing with debt or rebuilding your finances after bankruptcy, you’ll need to make a plan to keep spending under control, even if you feel pressured to splurge. 

Sticking to a Budget

Before you start making any purchases, you’ll need to look at your budget. It’s easiest to do this outside of the holiday season so that you have time to plan ahead and save. Decide how much is reasonable to spend on each person. This way, you’ll be able to set aside some money each month to either spend while you do all your shopping or to have available when you see the gift that’s just right for each person on your list. If you need to make your holiday purchases soon, you can still work within your budget. Look at how you’ve been spending your money to see if there are any expenses you can reduce. Consider sacrificing for a couple of months to make your loved ones’ holidays a little brighter with a small gift.

Getting Creative

Aside from planning and saving ahead of time, there are also ways you can get creative and make the holidays affordable. If you’re crafty or artistic, you may be able to make your own gifts, which gives them a personal touch. People appreciate special gifts, such as scrapbooks of old photos, a crocheted blanket, or home baked goodies. You may also be able to share other talents with your loved ones or offer services they really need, such as babysitting or yard work. If your recipient has a favorite “thing,” consider a themed gift basket of inexpensive items.

This time of year, nearly all of us are on some kind of budget, and really, most people don’t need more stuff. Perhaps your family would be willing to draw names for a gift exchange that limits the amount spent. Or maybe all the adults will agree to only give gifts to the children and to just enjoy the time together. Some friends give “the gift of not giving” and decide to skip exchanging gifts and instead just plan some fun time together by playing games, seeing a movie, or going to a holiday event.

When it comes time for your holiday celebration, rather than hosting and providing a full meal for everyone, ask your loved ones to contribute to a potluck gathering. Another option would be to just have a fun holiday mixer with potluck appetizers and desserts. Food is important, but it’s really all about creating memories and spending time together.


If the holidays have become too expensive for you, it’s ok to strip things back. Let your family know that you want to enjoy this exciting time of year, but have been working hard to rebuild your credit, pay off debt, and stay out of debt, so this won’t be the year for expensive gifts. Chances are, they’ll understand and even be relieved that they also don’t need to overspend.