Financial Strains at Christmas

How can we enjoy Christmas when we have to spend so much money on presents? We're stressed about finances all year, but it gets worse during the holidays. Any suggestions?

Christmas can be a family’s most memorable time of the year – but those memories can be either good or bad! Decisions we make in preparation for Christmas have an impact that extends far beyond Christmas Day itself. Some of those decisions are economic, some involve the busyness of our schedules, others have to do with emotional pressure. All of them create indelible memories of the holiday season.

Here are some recommendations to make your next Christmas better, more enjoyable, and less financially stressful than the last:

Don’t spend more money on Christmas than you can afford

December 25 comes every year. It’s not a surprise, so plan for it. If you don’t have cash for that special gift, it’s tempting to pull out a credit card and defer payment until after the first of the year. But January comes every year too, and the months that follow will be filled with financial worry and strain if you don’t control holiday spending. So shop wisely and learn to exercise restraint.

Give something of lasting value

If you have small children, it’s easy to buy something you think they’ll enjoy only to find it forgotten and cast aside by the end of Christmas Day. Talk with your kids about this issue before the Christmas season gets rolling. Try to reinforce a long-range perspective. If necessary, explain that there are certain kinds of gifts you would never consider giving them, and let them know that you would rather pay the same amount of money for something they will enjoy for a longer period of time.

Do something meaningful for someone else

With a little thought, you can find ways to give presents of lasting value that don’t cost anything at all. Make a family project of doing a good deed for a neighbor, a shut-in, or a relative. It could be something as simple as fixing a meal, raking leaves, or cleaning out the gutters. Put together “service coupon books” that the recipients fill in themselves and redeem whenever they want to.

Focus on spiritual, not material, issues at Christmastime

Take intentional steps to counteract the commercialism of Christmas. Do something creative with your family that emphasizes the spiritual significance of the Savior’s birth. Read Christmas-themed books together aloud. Meditate on the hardships Mary and Joseph endured in obedience to the angel’s command. Talk about why you want to have a different kind of Christmas than the one the world wants you to have.

Give something to yourself at Christmas

We’re not talking here about an impulse gift. Instead, do yourself a favor by making a commitment to do some things right in the following year, like paying off debt, starting an emergency fund, or learning how to live within your means.

Build memories

This is the cheapest recommendation of all. If you have kids, look for opportunities to spend meaningful time together during the weeks leading up to Christmas. In the process you’ll be doing more than stockpiling family memories – you’ll be building a legacy for generations to come.

These are just a few suggestions – you can probably come up with many more ideas on your own. If you need help, don’t hesitate to give our staff a call. Focus on the Family’s counselors would be happy to listen to your concerns and come alongside you with some practical advice.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

The Treasure Principle

Family and Personal Finances (resource list)

Other books on Money and Finance


Crown Financial Ministries

Dave Ramsey

Debt-Proof Living

Money and Finances

God’s Big Idea About Finances

Communicating About Money

Pursuing Financial Unity

You May Also Like