In what ways are you still paying for the efforts of last Christmas? Credit-card bills, installment loans, soured relationships, wounded spirits, burn-out, embarrassment, gifts promised but as yet unfinished or unfulfilled.

What changes are you willing to make starting right now to affect a different outcome this year? As we head into this most wonderful time of the year, you’ll be making lots of decisions on how you will use your time and your money. In fact, it may already be coming at you with full force. It takes a lot of courage to go against the flow, but it will be easier if you keep one eye on December 26. See every decision and spending opportunity in the light of what will remain when it’s over for another year.

What Really Matters

One year I asked my family of DPL members at to tell me about their best Christmas gift ever. I got every kind of response you could possibly imagine. And they were as unique as the individuals who responded. Yet every response had a deep, emotional dimension: spending time with family, welcoming a new family member, surprising loved ones with a visit, receiving a treasured possession from a grandparent. What I learned (I’ll be sharing the responses in coming chapters) is that all of the trouble we put ourselves through to spend enough money to be acceptable is often wasted. What really matters is rarely available for purchase in a store. 

Whatever your personality or the scope of your goals, the secret to your success will be found in your ability to stick with your plan. The bottom line is that you want to bring wonderful memories and renewed relationships with you into the New Year—not a pile of new debt for all kinds of stuff you can scarcely recall buying.

Remember, it is not up to you to find the absolutely perfect gift that will fulfill the deepest desire of every person on your list. It’s not your responsibility to become a mind reader and a dream fulfiller. The people on your list—as much as they love and adore you—probably don’t remember what you gave them last year. In the end, it just doesn’t matter that much what presents you give, provided that your desired sentiment is conveyed.

So before you get caught up in the emotion of the season and sidetracked by all those offers of “zero interest until next year!” determine how much cash you have to spend. Compare that to the number of gifts you’d like to give and other expenses of the season. Set a dollar limit for each one and stick to it no matter what.

Doing whatever it takes to enjoy an all-cash Christmas is the very best gift you can give yourself and your family. 

I know you can do it too. 

This article is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Mary Hunt's book: Debt-Proof Your Christmas: Celebrating the Holidays without Breaking the Bank (Baker, 2012). Used with permission.

"Debt-Proof Living" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt.  What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt.  Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe.

Publication date: December 21, 2012

Check out our Christmas Facebook page!