It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but signs of Christmas’ imminent arrival are still here. Most of those signs come from retailers, who of course are hoping they can get us to whip out our wallets this holiday season. Often, we give in and splurge: According to the National Retail Federation, the average American plans to spend over $800 on holiday items. But here’s what I know as a Memphis bankruptcy lawyer: there’s no amount of Christmas morning magic that will compensate for a January credit card statement you can’t pay off.

There’s an upside to staying on top of your holiday spending, and I’m saying this not just as a Memphis bankruptcy lawyer, but also as a father and husband. Trying to save money this season is actually a wonderful opportunity to reconnect to what matters most this time of year. Christmas has always been about more than shopping, which we too often lose sight of. So consider the budgeting tips below as ideas for enjoying the season with your loved ones the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

1. Avoid holiday shopping as much as possible.

This one may sound obvious enough, but often, simply setting foot inside of a mall leads us to buy things we never intended to. Now, some of us won’t be able to stay away from malls all season long; in fact that’s probably not even possible. So if you do go in, make sure you’ve already created a realistic budget and a list of holiday items you’ve allowed yourself to buy, and stick to it. (For accountability, bring a Christmas shopping buddy.)

Bonus tip: As you budget, don’t forget to include decorations, party planning, and travel. It all adds up.

2. Use cash as much as possible.

Cash saves. A proven way to avoid overspending is to only bring a fixed amount of money with you. So leave those credit cards at home!

3. Avoid “discounts.”

“Free shipping over $300!” Sounds like a great deal, right? But of course, you have to spend $300, which you maybe wouldn’t otherwise spend. These so-called offers aren’t offers at all. They are incentives to overspend. And nobody can save when they’re overspending.

4. Try homemade gifts, or skip the gift exchange altogether.

As I’ve said before, as not only a Memphis bankruptcy lawyer, but also as a father and husband, saving money is an opportunity to have a less materialistic Christmas. There are many ways to spend quality time together as a family, from volunteering in the community to playing a game, and they’re all wonderful alternatives to material objects.

You don’t have to forego gifts altogether to save money. Consider homemade gift certificates, like babysitting for each other’s kids or doing the dishes. And if you are doing a regular gift exchange, try a “Secret Santa” exchange, where you’re only buying one gift for one person, with a set spending limit.

Talk to a Memphis bankruptcy attorney about your holiday debt

Some of you may have existing debt and are worried that holiday spending will set you over the edge. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to be ashamed, and we’re here for you.

Give us a call at (901) 327-2100, and we’ll help you figure out a new plan to move forward.