Getting Out of Debt? 5 Conversations to Have Before Christmas Gets Here

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This is the year you finally decided to get out of debt. Way to go!

But wait—what about Christmas? It takes the average person 18 to 24 months to get out of debt. So if you’re really serious about changing your family tree, Christmas will have to change too.

Go ahead and tell your family and friends you won’t be splurging on gifts this year.

In fact, you won’t be buying gifts for anyone outside of your immediate household. That’s tough, we know, but here are a few tips to get you through it.

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1. Talk with your spouse

Before you do anything else, make a big pot of coffee and sit down with your spouse. Focus on the gifts you will be buying this season, and figure out your total Christmas budget. The free EveryDollar budget tool can help make this easy for you.

Maybe you save for a nice date night with your sweetheart instead of exchanging presents. Or maybe you sell some of your kids’ old toys to cover the cost of new ones. Just make sure your goals are achievable.

And as you talk, unleash your creativity but rein in your spending. Remember, this year is not about giving outrageously—it’s about getting mad and getting out of a financial mess as fast as possible.

2. Talk with your kids

After you’ve budgeted together, call in the kids and explain how Christmas will be different this year. Don’t be gloomy and don’t scare them. Just be honest and help them set realistic gift expectations.

Remind your kids this is a temporary tweak until you’re out of debt. You may be surprised at the sweetness of their responses. They may offer you their piggy banks or want to sacrifice their chore money.

This could break your heart into buying them more, but you have to stay focused. So give them big hugs and clarify that their contribution is to be content with fewer gifts, help out around the house, and enjoy the holidays—nothing more.

Related: 6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

3. Talk with your family

Some of your family members will not understand why you want to get out of debt. You’ll hear things like “Oh, but everyone is in debt” or “Why are you being such a Scrooge? It’s only money.”

You may feel so guilty, in fact, that you avoid family gatherings altogether. Don’t do that. It’s important to enjoy this time with loved ones, but be honest and upfront. Tell them you won’t be reciprocating and why.

This is where that talk with your spouse comes full circle. You must block out the negativity and lean on each other. Your relatives probably don’t mean any harm. They just don’t know any better.

Related: 8 Ways to Get Along With Your Family This Season

4. Talk to your friends

You always do a gift exchange with your closest friends. And it’s usually somewhere fancy. This year, you’ll have to pass on the big check.

You can still meet up and enjoy a potluck-style meal together, but you won’t be buying $15 appetizers or $30 knickknacks. Since these are your best buds, they may happily agree to a secondhand exchange party instead, where everyone brings their favorite food and a handful of old scarves to swap.

They’ll probably love the idea. But if a friend still wants to bless you with a store-bought item, you need to say thanks and accept it with a grateful heart. Don’t let guilt steal your gratitude.

5. Talk to yourself

This is simple, but important. Be sure to give yourself a little late-December pep talk.

It can be disheartening to miss out on all the shopping, wrapping and giving. But remember why you’re doing this! And reassure yourself that you’re accomplishing something bigger for your family.

In a few years, you’ll be able to bless everyone with extras! So keep your long-term glasses on.

Be proud of yourself for taking this huge step in the right direction. And don’t give up just because the holidays come calling. It’s time to tell your money who’s boss.

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