Skip to main content
Finding Financial Balance

Debt-free holiday gifting


A season of gifting does not have to mean taking on debt. Do you take on debt for holiday gifting? Debt comes in many forms, such as using a credit card, borrowing money from a friend, or using a buy now pay it later service. As a previous blog post discussed, debt may cause stress and negatively affect your financial well-being. As the average credit card interest rate has risen to over 20% this year, unless you can pay the balance in full, buying gifts on a credit card may cost more. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend an average of $875 this holiday season on gifts, decorations, food, and seasonal items. Did you prepare to spend this holiday season, or are you concerned about taking on debt?

Gift of time

If you have a smaller budget, but you have some extra time to put towards gifts, you may be able to save money and still have thoughtful gifts for loved ones. Sometimes, homemade gifts become the most precious because the value of your time is recognized. Sometimes, homemade gifts can be less expensive. With the cost of groceries rising, consider gifting food mixes in a jar as this can be simple, inexpensive, and a practical. The North Dakota State University provides food mix recipes and other ideas for affordable gifts such as creative gift baskets, homemade coupon books, recipe booklets, and photo gifts. Finding ways to show love and gratitude to those in your life does not always have to break your budget.  

Charitable giving

Many clothing, toy, and food drives are available for those who cannot afford what they need during the holiday season. Local nonprofit organizations tend to organize giving trees, where people can provide gifts for those in need. If you are not sure how to cover the costs of the holidays, there may be resources available locally. Local food pantries  can be found at the Eat.Move.Save Food Map.

Many people value charitable giving as part of their financial plan. When it comes to the holidays, support services rely on charitable giving for those in need. Charitable giving can be designating money in your spending plan toward helping others or using your time and resources to help others. The holiday season is when many people value spending time with their loved ones. Gifting may be a part of social expectations for many people, so thinking about ways to stay within your spending plan may benefit your financial well-being. Think carefully before taking on debt for holiday gifting because this may set you back with your financial goals. Happy Holidays!


Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US). (2023). Commercial Bank Interest Rate on Credit Card Plans. FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Consumers to spend nearly $900 to celebrate the winter holidays. (2023). National Retail Federation.

Find Food IL. (2023). University of Illinois Extension.

Garden-Robinson, J. (2011). Expand your gift-giving dollar with food mixes in a jar. North Dakota State University Extension.

Mahlandt, J. (2023). Do you experience purchase pain with cashless transactions? University of Illinois Extension.

Meet the Author


Jamie Mahlandt is a Financial Educator for Bond, Clinton, Jefferson, Marion, and Washington counties in Southern Illinois. She provides financial education to the local community with an emphasis on financial literacy and financial well-being.



Subscribe to blog updates HERE.