How to Pay for Christmas When You Have No Money

in Spend by Lacey Langford, AFC®

Christmas is coming! I repeat, Christmas is coming. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this in December or March, it’s coming. It does every year but unfortunately for many, it’s still a surprise to their finances every time.

If you don’t have kids, you can probably get by not buying a single present. But if you have kids, let’s be honest, you’re going to buy something for them. Whether you have the money or not. Which is why credit card debt goes through the roof during the holidays. Some shady companies even offer personal loans FOR CHRISTMAS! And that’s exactly what you should not do. Just say no to financing Christmas!

I’m going to tell you how you can pay for Christmas this year without going into debt but I’m also going to tell you how to be better prepared for next year.

Work With Whatcha Got

First things first, figure out what you’re working with. Look at how much money you have in savings, in your checking, or in the couch cushions. If you’re using a budget, how much extra cash flow do you have each month until Christmas? Knowing how much money you currently have will help you plan your spending better. If you have zero dollars, no worries we’ll get to that.

Take It Down Low

If you don’t have the money or enough for Christmas, you start with finding some money.  I tricked you with the whole “Take It Down Low” header. I’m sorry but if I had put the header, “Cut Costs,” your fight or flight instincts would have kicked in and you wouldn’t have read this far. I don’t want you to run away from this but instead choose to fight back. And by fight I mean, face the problem head-on. I know it’s uncomfortable but, you have to cut costs. I’m not saying sell all your worldly possessions but instead, take a good hard look at your spending and make some small changes. Remember this when cutting costs, it’s not forever, it’s just for right now.

Start by looking at all of your expenses. And I mean all. Don’t forget your Amazon Prime and vehicle registration. Begin by ranking each one of them by importance. Give the most important item such as your house a “1.” Then go to the second most important like food on the table (not Cheesecake Factory), and give it a “2,” electricity 3 and so on until you have them all numbered. That a look at your 5 expenses with the 5 highest ranks. These are the ones you want to look at reducing or cutting out altogether to start to find some extra cash.

Make More Money

If you can’t find extra money or have zero money for Christmas, you have to make money. I never said this would be easy but I did say I want you to fight the problem head one and that might mean getting a side hustle. Don’t knock it until you try it, you might just enjoy it. A side hustle is just an extra way to make some money other than your main source of income. Here are some ways you can bring home extra bacon for the holidays.

Get It Cheap or Free

It may not be a popular idea but it’ll do when your budget’s tight. Try to find gifts to give that are either cheap or free.

Now that you know how to make it by this Christmas without taking on extra debt. Here’s how you can be better prepared for next year.

Save money each month for the entire year to pay for Christmas.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do in order to have money to pay for Christmas. Get in the habit of saving money each month (which is good even when it’s not Christmas).

Start by setting up automatic, monthly transfers from your checking to your savings account. By setting aside $75-$100 per month, you will have a budget of $900-$1,200 to spend on Christmas next year. If you prefer, you can use the envelop system to save your Christmas money. Put $75-100 per month into an envelop marked Christmas. When it comes time for Christmas shopping, stick to what you have in the envelope.

It can be tempting to spend more than you have on Christmas. I know. But don’t fall into the trap. It will only cause you more heartache and stress in the New Year. Do what you can to make it by this year by cutting your costs, buying on sale or skipping gift giving this year. Then make a plan to start saving money each month to be financially ready to pay for Christmas next year.

Want to learn more about personal finance in the military? Check out and subscribe to the latest episodes of the Military Money Show below. You can also follow me on Twitter @FinanceLacey and @MilMoneyShow or on Facebook @TheMilitaryMoneyExpert and @MilMoneyShow.