There are 65 days left to Christmas, one of the most highly anticipated and joyful holidays of the year. However, Christmas can also be one of the most stressful seasons for families financially, as it’s often loaded with expenditures that can push people to go beyond their budgets.

From food, gifts, decorations, transport costs for outings and random guests popping in and out of your home, Christmas can be quite pricy.

But, with careful planning and extra effort on everyone’s part, Investment Banker and Money Coach Rina Hicks says its possible to have festivities filled with fun over the holidays without spending January trying to get out of debt.

So, if this Christmas you are planning to spend time with your extended family, here are a few practical tips to help you enjoy the holiday and stay debt free.

Organize a potluck

Instead of letting the host cater for the entire feast, organize a potluck lunch or dinner. This is one of the best ways to save on buying groceries for Christmas meals where others bring part of the meal, making it more budget friendly.  If the host is cooking the main dish, let others offer to bring side dishes, desserts or drinks.

“Eating out at restaurants is expensive especially during the festive season, so you can have a potluck at grounds/venues that are free or low cost or in somebody’s home. Things have been tough, suggest that people, for example, go to Arboretum and let everybody carry some food,” says Rina.


For those planning to travel to upcountry or other destinations for family get-togethers, carpooling is an exceptional way to save on fuel cost. Instead of having five cars on the road, you can have two and save on fuel expenses. But first, find out if carpooling will work for everyone. Find out who wants to drive and how often, where people are going to meet and be picked up and make sure those driving have a valid driving license and insurance. Also, this will be a great way to make interesting memories and conversations with relatives you only speak to once a year.

Shop early

Every year, the holiday shopping season seems to start earlier and you could use this to your advantage. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop when you will be stuck in supermarket queues longer than those at bus stages.

“Buying things in advance is helpful. If you have to buy a goat, buy it now and let it graze at the backyard until Christmas,” says Rina.

Ask family members to chip in and start shopping now to minimize the impact holiday shopping will have on everybody’s wallet. Shopping early means you’ll have time to look for discounts or sales instead of scrambling at the last minute.

Plan for something everyone can afford

The idea of a family holiday is one that gets many excited, because, who doesn’t want to enjoy some time off? But then questions like “can we afford it?” come up and people abort such plans even before they are firmed up.

However, planning a family get-together or vacation can be successful if the ideas are budget friendly and resources are pooled.

“Cut your coat according to your cloth, by that I mean have a celebration according to your financial capability,” Rina advises.

“There’s power in being able to contribute even if you are broke, you can do something. Whether it’s bringing the sodas or napkins, but for those planning, plan something that everyone can afford,” she says.

Go on holiday before or after Christmas

Rina says this is when rates are lower and it’s less overwhelming.

If the whole family is planning on going for a trip, then this is probably the time to find the best travel deals to avoid exorbitant surges in travel prices.

“Everyone travels home for Christmas almost at the same time, so if you go earlier or after, you can avoid the Christmas rush,” she says.

Stay home

This might be an unpopular suggestion but things have been tough for majority of people in recent times because of the pandemic. Staying at home might actually help to minimize stress during this period, and because of tight finances, you don’t have to host and entertain or think about holiday shopping and buying people gifts.

“Families are different, there are those who are well off and there are those that are struggling. You can decide to stay home this time, you don’t have to go upcountry or on holiday. You have paid school fees, and other bills so you can’t be expected to go for Christmas and foot that bill too,” Rina says.

Plan ahead, start planning for next Christmas now

Plan in advance so that you don’t have to make decisions in a rush when Christmas is approaching. Planning early also means other family members will have enough time to come up with money for a memorable holiday.

“Don’t wait until December to start thinking of what you are going to do. If you are starting to plan for you family vacation now, then it’s late,” Money Coach Rina says. “Planning for Christmas holidays should start as early as April because holidays are a huge expense.

“Decide early in the year where you’ll go as a family, find out how much it’s going to cost then start paying for the vacation slowly so that it’s not a huge expense at a time when there is a big demand for money. Also remember, for salaried people, when they are paid in December, that’s the same money that needs to be budgeted for school fees,” she says.