The Ultimate Budget Categories List to Help You Make a Foolproof Budget

101 budget categories and line items
101 budget categories
build the perfect budget with this budget categories list
the ultimate budget categories list to build a foolproof budget

Here are 101 budgeting categories so you never forget a budget line item ever again!

Now I know that sitting around and writing out a budget categories list sounds about as thrilling as watching paint dry BUT believe it or not, it is THRILLING! Well, I should say what you get out of it is thrilling; you get a budget that works! That working budget allows you to save for the big things your heart sings about, like a trip to Walt Disney World!

So, in essence, making a budgeting categories list = Walt Disney World. See what I did there? Nicey nice, huh!

Okay, it’s a stretch, I know, but making those connections (no matter how broad) in our brain will keep us invested in the budgeting process, and that is the most important thing! So what is something that you really want to buy or do? If you budget effectively and save your money, you can have those things! Yes, it may take a while to save up, but you will get there!

So let’s dig into all the possible budgeting categories and build a failproof budget that works for you and your family! Because it’s a great working budget that will make your dreams possible!

the ultimate budget categories list to build a foolproof budget

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Why you need budget categories

Everyone’s financial situation is different, and what makes sense to one person may not make sense to you. So you must build a budget that works for you because if it’s too complicated or not really applicable to you, you may end up quitting on your budget.  Neither of us wants that!

The main reason for going through this budget category list is to help you remember what you spend/buy. There’s nothing worse than building what you thought was the perfect monthly budget and then realizing that you forgot 8 different things after the fact. Then you totally busted your monthly budget, got pissed off, then depressed, and are tempted to quit.

Seriously, when I started budgeting, I forgot so many different things, and it made me so mad at myself (that’s the worst kind of mad!) I got so fed up with it that I wrote out anything and everything that could come up, and now here’s that list for you 🙂

Besides, having a specific set of budgeting categories allows you to measure month to month how you are doing, see trends, and course-correct if need be.

How to build your budget categories list

You can easily split your budget into a few sections; budget categories for household and personal budget categories.

Some people really like a lot of detail, and some people like more general budget categories lists. Build your categories for how it will work best for you. Just make sure you are consistent with them from month to month. (This is easy with fixed expenses but it’s the variable expenses and the unexpected expense that can be tricky).

Instead of writing out your own, you can grab a copy of these but getting your free Better Budget templates right here.  Just print and highlight which categories you want to include! There’s also a simple budget sheet for you to transfer them to build your own budget!

Categories for household budget

  • mortgage/rent
  • HOA dues
  • property taxes
  • home insurance
  • utilities – cable, internet, trash, water & sewer, electricity, gas, cell
  • lawn care
  • gardening supplies
  • home repairs & appliance replacement
  • tools & supplies

Budget categories personal use

  • makeup
  • hair products
  • hair cuts
  • vitamins & supplements
  • clothing & shoes
  • exercise
  • self-care activities
  • hobby stuff
  • side hustle supplies & costs
  • fun money

Budget categories for kids

  • clothes & shoes
  • haircuts
  • school supplies
  • school lunches
  • daycare
  • lessons & clubs
  • summer camps & programs
  • fees & registrations
  • subscription boxes
  • babysitters
  • fun stuff – toys, art supplies, hobby stuff, books
  • Holiday stuff – Easter outfit, Halloween costumes, Christmas pictures with Santa, etc.

Budget categories list for medical care

  • health insurance premiums
  • health insurance deductible
  • prescriptions
  • eye care & glasses
  • dental & orthodontics
  • co-pays
  • first aid supplies
  • medical equipment
  • therapy 
  • life insurance
george pataki quote on budget

Budget categories for work

  • uniform or professional clothing
  • dry cleaning
  • lunches & snacks
  • coffee
  • transportation & parking fees
  • professional fees & licensing
  • after-hours events
  • work equipment, tools & supplies

Budgeting categories for transportation

  • gas
  • car payments
  • car insurance
  • toll road fees
  • public transportation costs & passes
  • car repairs
  • regular maintenance – oil changes, services, new tires, etc
  • parking fees
  • car registration
  • DMV fees
  • DEQ fees
  • Hobby transportation (i.e., bike costs, etc.)

Budgeting categories for family 

  • basic groceries
  • splurge groceries
  • restaurants & fast food
  • meal kits
  • subscriptions – Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc.
  • household supplies – cleaners, soap, paper goods, etc.
  • tax prep & legal fees

Budget categories for pets

  • purchase price of pet
  • veterinary care
  • lessons & training
  • licenses
  • pet food & vitamins
  • toys, cages, etc
  • grooming

Budget categories list for gifting

  • birthday presents
  • anniversary presents
  • holiday presents – Christmas, Easter baskets, Valentine’s Day treats, Halloween candy
  • graduations

Budgeting categories for events & fun

  • family reunions
  • holiday BBQ’s
  • Christmas events
  • spring break vacations
  • summer vacations
  • winter break vacations
  • weekend getaways
  • day trips – entry fees
  • concerts & festivals
  • airfare
  • trip insurance
  • road trips – gas, snacks & supplies

Budget categories for savings

  • retirement contributions 
  • emergency fund
  • sinking funds – vacations, home repairs, holidays, etc.
  • college fund for kids
  • charitable giving

Budget categories for debt

  • minimum payments
  • fees & charges (i.e., late fee, overdrafts, etc.)
  • personal loan debt
  • student payments
  • HELOC repayment
  • credit card debt
  • car debt

Don’t forget that you can grab all of these bullet points printed out (and a budget worksheet to lay it all out in) and ready by grabbing your free budgeting templates right here!

free budgeting templates

Simple budgeting categories

Holy cannoli! That was 101 budgeting categories list! Whew! As I said above, all of these bullet points might be overwhelming; I get it. In that case, you may want to stick to simple budgeting categories, say maybe 10 or less. This would work best with a flexible budgeting method, such as the 50/30/20.  

This budgeting method has three main categories

  • needs = 50% of spending – (i.e. housing, utilities, etc)
  • wants = 30% of spending – (i.e. discretionary spending – aka personal budget category)
  • savings = 20% of income gets saved – (all savings goals)

If you want to see it laid out (I’m a visual learner, so I like to “see it” to help me understand. You can see it here.

Irregular expenses

When filling in your budget worksheet, don’t forget about the irregular expenses; you know those once every 6 months, or once a year type of spending. Think Amazon Prime subscription, Annual HOA dues, etc. Those are typically larger charges that can throw your monthly budget out of whack in an instant!

If you buy stuff for work and then get reimbursed for it, you may need to float that business expense for a month or two. So be sure to add a business expense category on your budget spreadsheet. Just be mindful of what you buy, and complete your reimbursement claims regularly.

At the end of the day

I know I just delivered a ton of items on this budget category list, and you absolutely shouldn’t use all of them (too overwhelming). Just choose the ones that make the most sense for your situation and build a successful budget.

The biggest benefit of doing this is that you plan ahead for expenses, then nothing comes up unexpectedly, throwing your budget completely off track! Because when that happens, you either go into debt for the expense or take money from your Walt Disney World vacation fund! GASP! Anything but that!!!!! 🙂

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Which items on the budget category list are you going to start including in your budget?


The Frugal Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning on a Budget

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key ingredient for meal planning on a budget
frugal mom guide to meal planning

Meal Planning Can Help Save You $1,600 a Year on Your Grocery Budget!

Hmmm… donuts, pizza & mojitos OH MY! Isn’t it amazing how one stray sentence can totally take over your mind! Food is tasty, a treat, and can be downright mesmerizing! It can also be one of our biggest budget busters! We want what we want and when we want it (sometimes we hate wanting it (I’m talking to you brownies!) This gets us into trouble with our waistline as well as our wallet!

I have my fingers crossed that one day there will be a resurgence in renaissance body love, all curvy & pale 🙂 Yet, I know that eating healthy needs to be a top priority. I know this because I tell myself this almost daily. You too? We want to do what’s best for our bodies and our wallet, yet sometimes those two things don’t always align. I mean, 1 lb organic strawberries in February can be $8.99! (don’t choke!)

So how do we align saving money on food while eating healthy? The answer is simple, yet kind of intimidating at first glance. It’s meal planning on a budget! DON’T WORRY and don’t get overwhelmed; it can be a lot easier than you imagine. I’m going to walk you through the main points to nail this piece of the grocery budget puzzle. So you never have to worry about hearing, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” ever again!

frugal mom guide to meal planning

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Feeding our body healthy foods has been a long time passion of mine. Previous to Money for the Mamas, I taught kids how food grows at combo learning farm & CSA. For 90 minutes, we talked about soil, farm animals, water quality, and most importantly, how our food grows and why fruits & vegetables are so important. I also did a stint with the State of Oregon and the national level, Farm to School movement, which helps schools create programing around healthy foods. Fantastic work, which is both heartbreaking and hugely rewarding!

With that experience, I know that meal planning can be a great solution, as moms, I know how we want to do our best to provide healthy foods for our family. Yet, rising food costs do not make this easy for us.  

The Street reports that in 2018, the average American household spends $7,729 per year on food, which is about 12.8% of our after-tax income. Yet, with our current situation (August 2020), costs are rising. “April of this year food prices had the largest monthly increase in 46 years!” says ABC News.

There are many different ways that you can save money on groceries, but today we’re just going to talk about one specific element, meal planning on a budget! Which can still be healthy family meals, you just need to plan things out (and plan for the days when you “just can’t even” think of cooking)!

Now, I’m not going to say that an occasional frozen pizza doesn’t sneak into my freezer (and my belly), but I try really hard to balance those not so healthy items with better for you options.  

Meal planning to save money on groceries

Let’s get down to specifics on exactly how meal planning can save you money in your grocery budget.

Saving money by not buying foods that you won’t eat

I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve bought veggies with the best intentions of eating them! And then that sad and guilt-ridden sound of the “thunk” as the jicama falls into the trash. Arg!

When you meal plan, you decide what you are cooking and eating and when, there is a “plan”, not some vague intention. When you know that on Tuesday it’s spaghetti squash & meatball night, you can be dang sure that the veggies are getting eaten and will not go to waste!

Speaking of food waste, you all know the squishy, greeny brown scenario at the bottom of the produce drawer. But what does this look like to our wallet? According to Marketwatch, “As much as 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S! Americans throw away $165 billion in wasted food every year.” According to Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, some 160 billion pounds of discarded food also clogs up landfills.

What that means is roughly, “219 lbs of food per person is wasted a year” quotes RTS (waste experts), and that’s $1,600 a year for a typical sized family!

Think of taking your grocery budget, pulling out 40% of the money, and just throwing it in the trash! Oh. Hell. No.

That’s crazy! Yet, we don’t intend to do; it just happens. And meal planning is one of the best ways to combat this by buying only what you know you will use for that week (or however often you go to the store).

meal planning is so you never hear "Mom what's for dinner?" again!

Know your food costs  

You can still buy most of the same foods but know which of your local stores have the best prices. For example, there are two stores of the same chain, maybe 4 miles apart, and one of them has consistently lower prices than the other. So I always go to the cheaper one.

Also, when you sit down to do your weekly menu, you can look at store flyers to see who might have chicken breasts on sale, or who has digital coupons for your favorite brand of cheese.

You may go to a Kroger store for chicken and then go to Target for sale on frozen burritos (a favorite late-night snack of my husband). Yet, for this to be a genuine savings, you need to consider the cost of your time & gas driving to multiple stores. If you’re spending 45 minutes driving to a store to save $.40 per pound on beef, that’s not saving! Your time is valuable, so absolutely count that into the equation.

Many times stores will have loss leaders (items they sell at a loss just to get people into their store”. Did I mention that I worked in a grocery store for six years? No? Well, I did. It is a fantastic, socially conscious store (B-Corp certified) that helped bring healthy and local food to the communities they serve.  

Yet, they weren’t cheap. Even with a staff member discount, I was paying a lot for my groceries. Yet I knew that certain times of the year, they would offer boneless skinless chicken breasts at $2 off the regular price (that was basically at cost for the store), $4.99 vs. $6.99. I bought enough chicken to last a long time. We’re talking like 20 breasts. Then I would take them home, portion two breasts into a freezer bag and boom, chicken for months!

I knew about these times, so I planned it into my budget. Other times of year stores have a sale is their anniversary day (or founder days), or holidays. Each chain is a little bit different, so don’t be shy. Ask them when their big sales are!

Go the extra mile and ask them which days they mark their items down. For example, canned goods may go on Tuesday, boxed goods on Wednesday. Or they may go by the department, dry grocery on Monday, and perishable grocery (dairy and such) on Friday. Ask them what time of day they start and when they finish. Then see if you can go in near to the time that they are wrapping up.

Meal planning saves you time

As a super duper busy mom (aren’t we all?), one of the things I hate most is standing in front of the fridge trying to decide what to fix. When this happens, my mind immediately goes blank; nothing in the refrigerator looks good to eat. In the past, I would waste maybe 10-30 minutes a day just trying to decide what to make. What a waste!

By meal planning, you always know because you posted the weekly menu on the fridge! And what’s better is that your family never needs to ask you, “what’s for dinner?”

free saving money printables

Resources to meal planning on a budget

Luckily, many women have masted the art of meal planning (hey, no reason that we need to reinvent the wheel!). So let’s dive in to see how others have meal planned on a budget.

The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle

If you’re a one-stop-shop kind of mom (me!), then you’re going to love this fantastic resource! It’s a bundle of 58 products all around meal planning, tied up in one neat package! You just buy it once (for a crazy low price), and you have access to all 58 items!  You need to act fast, as it’s only on sale for the week of August 17th – 21st!

There are 11 Cookbooks, 15 Meal Plans, 11 eBooks, 9 eCourses, 10 Printables, 1 Membership, and a Summit. (Plus some great free bonuses and an early bird buyer special thank you gift!)

health meal planning bundle

The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle is a great option because it’s all around this very specific topic of healthy meal planning (not all are low cost specific). Still, the bundle as a whole is very cost-effective, so you can meal plan on a budget (and there are a few resources around being budget-conscious).

Here are the main categories that the bundle covers…

  • Budgeting
  • How to get started meal planning
  • Kid-friendly
  • Meal organization
  • Quick & easy
  • Real food & nutrition
  • Specialty diets
  • Weight loss

Now, you may be wondering why you would ever need 58 items all around the same topic? Totally fair question by the way. Let’s just say it like it is; we won’t vibe with everyone we meet or learn effectively from one particular teaching style. So in the bundle, some information may overlap, but that’s a good thing!  

So many times, I read about a topic that I already know a lot about. Yet, one person says something in a specific way, or in a particular tone where it just “clicks” for me! The lightbulb goes off, and I suddenly “get it”! I am thrilled when this happens as it could have something that I didn’t quite understand, or never really knew why it was a big deal.

The great thing about this bundle is that they are giving everyone a free jumpstart by hosting a free Meal Planning Bootcamp starting August 11th. Yes, that’s coming up soon! Here, you can get a taste of some of the information, and get geared up to start your own meal planning journey.  

The best part is that it’s a challenge, so you are participating right alongside other women just like you! Going through things together, so you can bounce ideas off of each other, learn from those who tried XYZ, and help others with your own experiences. Don’t forget that it’s free! Yup, zero cost to join in and participate!

Now don’t worry, if you’re reading this after August 11th. The bundle still exists, but it’s only available for a limited time. However, they bring it back annually, and sometimes they even do a flash sale after a few months (no guarantees though). So still sign up with your name and email, and then you will be on the list to get notified once it becomes available again!

Ultimate Bundles also offers a phenomenal resource on learning about all things personal finance! Check out their Master Your Money Super Bundle right here!

Struggle Meals

If you haven’t watched Frankie work his magic in the kitchen, then you are missing out! He doesn’t do meal prep, per se, but his expertise is in cooking cheaply, using leftovers, AND he’s damn entertaining too! Check out one of my favorite video’s down below (hint – save this video for after Thanksgiving!)

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Grab some meal planning printables to help meal plan on a budget

Oh, organizing… did you ever know that you’re my hero? Everything that I would like to be? For you are the wind beneath my wings.  Or something like that. Yup, organizing makes my heart happy!

That’s why I am such a huge fan of my Organized Home printables, and I created one specifically for meal planning! This packet has…

  • weekly menu planner 
  • food inventory tracker (so you never lose steaks under the frozen spinach again!)
  • family favorite meals list (that are easy go to’s when short on time & energy)
  • grocery shopping list, broken up by department (no circling back to aisle 7 five different times!)
meal planning printables

This meal planner & grocery list is an instant download so you can print it in just 2 minutes from now! (save it to your hard drive so you can print as many copies as you want!)

Freezer meals are essential to meal planning on a budget

One of the very best things that you can do is plan on failing! 


Yup, I freely admit that somedays I am a Hot Mess Mom! I am frazzled, I am running 54 errands, going to the eye doctor and end up getting my eyes dilated for what seems like forever, and on and on the tragedy of life turns into a comedy! And I am DONE!

That means I need to plan on things not going great, so on those days, I need something up my sleeve because I know that going to the drive-thru isn’t all that cheap, nor is it healthy!  

There are two options for us Hot Mess Moms…

One – Frozen Meals – pizza, burritos, corndogs & tater tots (yum), etc. Now, these aren’t the healthiest, but they are cheap. Besides, who doesn’t like tater tots! So I am fine with doing this a few nights here and there.  

Two – Freezer Meals! These are my secret weapon for when times are tough. For example, before I gave birth, I did a whole day of nothing but freezer meal prep, as I knew once the baby came, I would need all the help I could get!  

A great resource that I have found is My Freeze Easy! It’s a freezer meal planning & prep plan, where you get access to new monthly freezer recipes! There are some great customizations too; gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, instant pot, etc.!

My Freeze Easy

Now not only are these designed to save time, but they stem from the $5 Meal Plan program, so all the recipes are budget-friendly!  

If you’re not quite sure about diving into freezer meals, Erin (the founder) has a great free workshop to introduce you to freezer cooking, so you can feel it out and see if it’s something you might like. Again don’t worry, it’s not a 90-minute life or death training. She’s a mom; she knows you’re busy! It’s three videos for a total of approx 20 minutes. easy peasy, right! (Pssst… you get three free recipes & shopping list, nice!)

Some of you may be a bit wary of freezing meals, especially produce. I mean, does freezing take away all the good vitamins & nutrients? Answer: Not at all! According to Healthline, “Frozen fruit and vegetables are generally picked at peak ripeness (while fresh is picked before it’s ripe). They are often washed, blanched, frozen, and packaged within a few hours of being harvested. Frozen produce is nutritionally, similar to fresh produce. When nutrient decreases are reported in frozen produce, they’re generally small.”  

They mentioned that most of the nutrient loss happens with extended periods of storage in the freezer, like two years or more. So generally speaking, frozen fruits & vegetables are a great way to get your vitamins!

The Healthy Meal Planning Bundle does have a freezer meal cookbook, but it’s not as customizable as My Freeze Easy plan! BUT, I know that the thought of buying 58 items, like the bundle, can cause your brain to shut down from overwhelm. So here’s one great resource. Easy Peasy!

Look to Pinterest for inspiration

So this is a love/hate relationship. Everything looks great, yet it can be overwhelming. Simply put in the search bar “Meal planning on a budget”, or “easy dinners”, “crockpot dinners,” or “frugal foods”. So many options will come up.  

I have a secret board just for “dinners to try”, and then maybe once a month I’ll go in and pick a few to try during the next month, and I work those into my meal plan. I may find a new favorite, or it may be a dud.

Oh, and don’t forget while you’re on Pinterest checking out meals, head on over here, and follow me for lots of budget-friendly inspiration!

Know your grocery budget (and stick to it)

If you want to do meal planning to save money, you need to know your grocery budget! Better yet, if you’re stocking up on things at a low price, then you need to know how much of your grocery budget is for regular food, and how much is for stocking up. You can’t blow everything on your stockpile, and you can’t spend every last dime on your weekly veg.

A good place to start is 75/25 split. So 75% of your grocery budget is for everyday shopping, while 25% of your grocery budget is for stocking up. Initially, you may find you’re spending a bit more on your stockpile, but it will taper down as you go on and build up your pantry.

Some things that I stockpile when the prices are good…

  • Cereal (I only buy if it’s $1 a box)
  • Granola bars
  • Frozen foods
  • Meat (buy in bulk and divide into 1 lb portions then freeze)
  • Canned goods
  • Paper goods (paper towels, TP)
  • Health & beauty – soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc

In talking about budgeting did your stomach do a little flip? I know you’ve been meaning to get back to budgeting, so here’s a great resource! It’s my Ultimate Guide on How to Budget Series, and it goes through everything you ever wanted to know about it!

Tip for Meal Planning on a Budget – Leftovers are your friend!

Don’t forget to plan on having a leftover day for dinners! Make it one day at the end of the week to clean out your fridge before the next week’s shopping trip.  

Make it easy!

Have Leftover Day be as easy as possible for your family by getting some great clear glass meal storage containers! That way, you can easily see what’s in there to eat, and by buying glass containers, you can reheat these directly in the microwave without worry. It’s known that microwaving food in plastic containers isn’t the best choice.  

Harvard Health states that “When food is wrapped in plastic or placed in a plastic container and microwaved, BPA and phthalates may leak into the food. BPA and phthalates are believed to be “endocrine disrupters.” These are substances that mimic human hormones, and not for the good.”

Now, I’m not a scientist, nor am I a fearmonger. But if I don’t need to take a risk, and can easily avoid it, I will. So I bought glass containers for my family. 

I love these Pyrex containers. They are a perfect size (3 cup) and stack great in the fridge! So after dinner is over, if there are leftovers, I immediately portion the items out into meals in the containers. So all my husband has to do is grab one, take off the lid and heat it up and BAM, full dinner/lunch!

Pyrex 3-Cup Rectangle Food Storage

  • pack of 4 or 6
  • Glass is pre-heated oven, microwave, fridge and freezer safe, & dishwasher safe
  • Non-porous glass won’t absorb stains or odors

Make leftovers new & different!  

If your family doesn’t love the idea of leftovers, then you can easily shake things up! All you need to do is change how it’s served. For example, get some tortillas to make items into a wrap, or add on soup & salad to make small amounts of leftovers stretch into a full meal.

Here are some other ideas to give your leftovers a makeover with a different presentation

  • make it a wrap
  • turn it into soup
  • add a grain and have a buddha bowl
  • make a frittata or an omelet
  • use leftovers as fillings for a quesadilla
  • or as a topping on pizza

Just Google “what to do with leftover ________”, and you should get some fun ideas! Or just go to Big Oven’s Use Up Leftovers feature! You add in your three main ingredients, and it gives you a bunch of tasty options!

At the end of the day

Our Mom List never seems to get shorter, does it? You cross four things off, and then two hours later, you add seven more things! ARG! Yet, there are some things (like meal planning) that can reduce your mental and physical load over time. Meal planning may take a few rounds for you to work out the kinks, but overall you will save so much time and money!

Imagine what you would do with 40% more of that grocery budget? (as you won’t be throwing away rotted out lettuce, or wait, was the broccoli? Yesh, it’s hard to tell now that it’s a squishy stinky blob.  

Meal planning on a budget can give you that 40% back! Remember, RTS estimated that it was $1,600 on average, a year per family! What would you do with an extra $1,600 a year? Use it to fund a family vacation? Revamp your back patio living space? Use it to help offset the cost of braces for your youngest? There are so many things!

saving money free templates

Tell me in the comments, If you started meal planning on a budget, what would you do with the $1,600 that’s back in your pocket?


How to (Actually) Stop Overspending on Christmas Presents

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Here are the 5 steps you need to take to stop yourself from overspending on Christmas gifts

The excitement, the gingerbread latte is now kicking in … the click-clack of your shoes racing down Target’s floor tiles… as you frantically snatch the must-have toy of the season off the shelf, clutching it possessively to your chest!  


As you round the corner trying to get back to the main aisle, you can’t believe your eyes; you haven’t seen this Magnolia item in stock in FOREVER! In your shopping cart it goes! Off to checkout, and you slooooow way down going by the girl’s section, and think, “That’s super cute! My little one would love that!” It too goes in the cart!

An hour later, and your phone bings at you. Yup, it’s a large purchase amount alert from your credit card. It reads, “Did you spend $358.42 at Target? This amount is over your alert limit notification settings”.

And just like in The Christmas Story, you say (in slow motion for dramatic effect) “Oh FUDGE!”

You totally overspent! Again! You told yourself you weren’t going to overspend on Christmas presents again! (like ever!) Last year’s holiday credit card bill left you with hives, and you promised yourself that this next year would be different!

Well, guess what, that Target scenario up above… it was just a dream. Just like Ebenezer, there is time for you to change your ways. You’re not doomed to follow the same path you did last year! So if you’re ready, let’s dive into how to stop overspending at Christmas!

how to stop overspending on christmas presents

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

What is the Christmas Debt Hangover?

Ugh! No one likes a hangover! But unlike a hangover from too much bubbly, a Christmas debt hangover can last months and months (sometimes years)! No thanks!

According to a MagnifyMoney survey, “Americans took on an average of $1,325 of holiday debt in 2019”. Here’s how their numbers played out…

  • 44% of consumers took on debt this holiday season, and the majority (57%) didn’t plan on doing so.
  • 78% of those with holiday debt won’t be able to pay it off come January, including 15% who are only making minimum payments.
  • 58% of indebted consumers are stressed about their holiday debt.
  • 40% plan to consolidate debt and/or shop around for a good balance transfer interest rate, but more than half won’t even try. Of those that won’t try, 20% think it’s not necessary, and 18% don’t want to deal with another bank.

Now specifically regarding how long it would take them to pay off the debt, survey responders said…

  • 22% said one month
  • 21% said two months
  • 19% said three months
  • 8% said four months
  • 16% said 5+ months
  • 15% are paying only minimum payments

Right now, The Fed Reserve lists the average credit card interest rate to be 14.52%. You can generally assume that your minimum payment will be about 2% of your total bill. Here’s a screenshot of how long it would take to pay off the card (if you didn’t put any more purchases on it).

magnify money debt calculator
using Magnify Money’s credit card debt calculator

64 months? Paying $582 in interest? W.T.F.!

Are you ready to tame your shopping spree beast? Because, after looking at those numbers, overspending at Christmas is not cool!

How to stop overspending on Christmas presents: Step One – decide what you will focus on besides the gifts!

It’s just smart sense that when you take something away, you need to replace it with something else. Instead of a donut, have a whole grain muffin!  

So instead of focusing on gifts, what do you want to spend the season focused on? I’ve got a great list of frugal family fun ideas for the holidays!  These are bucket list items perfect for the holiday season!

You’re especially going to need something fun to do Christmas morning, as you don’t want the day to be anticlimactic without all the presents, as it might be hard on our littlest ones. Think about…

  • Doing a Meals on Wheels delivery route in your neighborhood.
  • Go caroling.
  • Do a Christmas movie marathon (pj’s required!).
  • Make a full holiday meal together as a family.
  • Go sledding/skiing/ice skating or go to the mountains for snow time fun! Don’t forget the hot cocoa and accessories for the snowman you’ll build!

Step Two – Consider a gifting strategy

Every good General knows that you need a plan of attack or a strategy, shall we say. And if you don’t think Christmas shopping is kind of like preparing for battle, then hats off to your peaceful and serene holidays of the past. The rest of us battle-weary moms can barely nod in agreement (as we’re still a little shell shocked from last year’s holiday season).

Strategy One – Adopt the 4 Gift Rule

This one is amazing in its simplicity to help you stop overspending on Christmas gifts! It caters to those toying with the idea of having a minimalist(ish) holiday, and it’s gaining popularity every year! You gift each recipient (that you would typically buy lots for) just four gifts.

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something they need
  4. Something they want

I’d like to think of it as a way to buy a more meaningful selection of gifts. As you’re looking not just to buy lots of things, but purchase specific items. Hopefully, the receivers will appreciate their gifts a little more and not get lost in the craze of ripping off wrapping paper at the speed of light.

Don’t forget to snag your printable gift list tracker; there’s a four gift rule one and then a classic gift list printable. Everything you need to stay organized and on budget!

christmas gifting list

Strategy Two – Give the gift of an experience

Maybe your kids have everything that they need! Maybe you are dreading anything more coming into your home as you need to get your Home Edit on right now!

If that’s the case, then consider giving an experience instead. This could be a short trip to the beach or a big trip to Walt Disney World. Or tickets to a sporting game or an event like Comic-Con. Go as big or as small as you like. Set aside the Christmas money and put it in a sinking fund to make this experience come true (even if it’s at a later date).

Hint: if it’s a trip to a theme park, some have vacation planning DVDs or online videos (DisneyWorld does). This would be a great thing to wrap and put under the tree!

Strategy Three – Go the D.I.Y. route

Now, this isn’t for those of us that are all thumbs (meeee!) I am not a crafter/knitter/artist/DIYer by nature. But for those of you that are, consider harnessing your talent for homemade gifts!

Even if you don’t have a talent, maybe consider gifting a custom photo book from Shutterfly. Or collect great grandmothers family recipes together and turn them into a little book (or place her most famous recipe on a tea towel! Cute huh!)

That’s right, as your mother always said, it pays to plan ahead! That means getting your Christmas present shopping done early! As the holiday gets closer, we tend to panic slightly; we grab just about anything that will do as a good gift. Most of the time that means we’re spending a little more (because we don’t want to get a cheapo lame gift)!

So start jotting down your gift choices now! Aka ASAP! I.e., immediately!

Okay, you get the drift. Besides, online ordering gets bigger every year, and sometimes there are shipping delays or snowstorms that stop service in half the country (yikes!) You don’t want to get a substitute gift because your original gift won’t be back in stock until January 17th!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

Step Four – Use Cash

They say cash is king, and they’re right! Especially when it comes to spending money. Because when the cash is out, the spending is done! It’s genius at its most basic, and it works every time (as long as you leave your credit cards at home). You simply cannot overspend on Christmas gifts!

Using cash envelopes is a strategy used by many successful budgeters! Besides, stuffing these cute festive holiday cash envelopes is fun! You can use one for each person you’re gifting to or use one for each holiday shopping category—I.e., food, decorations, gifting, fun times, supplies, etc.

Nerdwallet references a cult classic report where, “An often-cited study is one conducted by Dun & Bradstreet, in which the company found that people spend 12%-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash.”

Don’t forget that when you pay with cash, you won’t have to pay interest on the charge either! Look at it this way; when you pay cash, you’re buying something. When you pay with a credit card, you’re borrowing the money for it; you didn’t buy it (but you’ll pay extra for it in interest!)

Step Five – Don’t go into the stores!

This one sounds silly, I know, but it’s so painfully obvious. If you don’t have to go into a store, then don’t! Because really, we’ve all gone into a store, we don’t grab a cart because we just need one thing, and we come up to the cashier juggling items like a clown!  

Inevitably when you go into a store, it’s straight temptation. Why do that to yourself? Stay home, and send someone else to the store, or better yet, do some online ordering for that item you need!

Or if you’re poison is the 1-click buy, then take some super easy preventative measures. Delete your credit card info on your devices! GASP! I know, I know, it sounds drastic, but making it just the teensiest bit harder on yourself to shop online could mean saving hundreds! Because honestly, sometimes I don’t get up to walk across the house to grab my credit card number!

Better yet, do a marketing edit! Unsubscribe from those pesky emails from your favorite retailers and unfollow them on social media! You won’t want what you never see! Now, I know you’ve been thinking about this idea for a while, give it a try! You can always go back later and subscribe again!

Simple hacks to stop overspending on Christmas presents

Know your prices

Do you know the regular price of the “sale” item in your hand? Even though it says it’s on sale or discounted 20% off, it might still not be a great price! If you are 100% in on saving money this holiday season, then you should scout your gifts early, record their prices, and wait to see what the “holiday deals” actually are.

Many retailers change their prices regularly. What was $59 in September could easily now be $75 in December. Yet now they can mark it being 20% off! They get to keep their sales margin high enough to get a good profit, and you (the customer) feel like you got a good deal. Winner Winner… oh wait, that’s a bull$hit dinner!

Be smarter than the retailer!

Don’t go shopping when…

  • You are hungry
  • You’re short on time
  • With somebody else (friends can be bad influences, sorry friends)
  • It’s going to be super crowded (instead go early in the morning, or late at night)

Next years plan for Christmas gifting

If you get through this Christmas and going low key on gifts wasn’t for your family, then no problem. You can have the Christmas that your family wants; you may need to start socking away money for it a bit earlier than usual! Check out How to Start a Christmas Savings Plan and How to Plan the Perfect Christmas Budget!

At the end of the day

I know that reading about how to not overspend at Christmas sounds like a bummer of a topic. But honestly, think about how you’ll feel come January when you don’t have that big fat credit card bill that’s knocking out your wallet like it’s Balboa in Rocky 1!

I know that for many of us, we remember Christmases of youth, with mountains of presents, and we want to recreate those warm fuzzy memories for our own kids. But those warm fuzzy feelings can be created out of so many instances, not just present opening. So save yourself the agony and angst of overspending at Christmas, and don’t even go there!

Christmas Budget Workbook mock up

What are your top tips for how to stop overspending on holiday gifts ?


A Mom’s Practical Guide to the Best Ideas for Your Family Christmas Bucket List

25 inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays
Christmas family traditions that won't break the bank!
free and cheap guide to Christmas Family Fun
frugal family fun for the holidays
25 frugal ideas for your family's Christmas bucket list
A mom's guide to the best family Christmas bucket list

25 Christmas Family Traditions that won’t bust the bank

The holiday season is a magical time for many families, the excitement, the treats, the cost!

The cost?!?

Ouch, yes it’s true, the holidays cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. But they don’t have to! You can absolutely get in all your Christmas family traditions without spending a lot of money! You just need to keep your eyes open, have a flexible schedule, and be ready to appreciate the small moments. Here are my top 25 choices for your family’s Christmas Bucket List (mostly) on a Budget!

A mom's guide to the best family Christmas bucket list

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

Fair warning, I did give a few options that included spending money, but nothing very expensive. So pick and choose what fits your family and your holiday budget. As going over budget doesn’t make things easier come January!

Start your Christmas bucket list off early in the season

One – watch the parade

In my home, Christmas begins Thanksgiving morning. Sounds a bit hasty, but watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a huge hit! We sit in our jammies, have coffee, and talk about our favorite floats (and how we have no idea who the musical acts are). Then when the dog show comes on, right after it the parade, we start cooking! We have the dog show on in the background, and then when that is over, we put on Miracle on 34th Street, a total classic that we watch multiple times during the season!

Two – the first gift of Christmas

This one also happens on Thanksgiving, but after all the gluttony. We sit and watch The Polar Express (we’re a movie watching kind of family), and then after that, we all go into the living room, where my mom hands out the first gift of Christmas (just like in the movie). It’s always something small, a box of truffles, a knick-knack, or something like that, but it’s a fun way to officially ring in the holiday season!

Three – a visit to the tree farm

If you can, I strongly encourage you to go to a local tree farm vs. a tree lot to get your tree. Our local Christmas tree farms have absolutely stepped up their game and make it a full outing! Hot cocoa, fire pit with marshmallows, rustic holiday decor items for sale, petting zoo, and of course, the tree! You pick your tree out, and they shake it and wrap it up (bring some cash $10 -$15 for the guys working outside in the freezing cold). Last year our local farm even had a spot for our #4 item…

Four – pictures with Santa

Now, I have to say it, but this doesn’t fit my Christmas bucket list “on a budget” criteria, as DANG, those pictures can be spendy! I think we paid $45 for three photos on a flash drive (facepalm). But they are worth it! My daughter gets SO excited to see him, and we always send out her pictures to family members, and they love it too!

You have to decide if this fits into your budget or not. Maybe you have all your kiddos visit Santa at once and sit down around his feet for a combo photoshoot (vs. individually going up). Or maybe you can find a Santa for free (I am sure there are opportunities, we just really liked the Santa at the farm).

Five – sleep under the Christmas tree

So I don’t mean to sleep under the tree literally, but having a living room (or wherever your tree is) “camp in” that first night that you put the tree up! Make it an event, bring in lots of blankets and pillows, watch a holiday movie, have hot cocoa!

Go all out on a hot cocoa bar! You need to spend a little money, but this could be a great Christmas family tradition that everyone will look forward to! These super cute marshmallow hot cocoa mugs are hard to resist! Grab some chocolate peppermint stir sticks to add some fun or grab some delicious Ghirardelli sauces to make your hot chocolate just right.

Six – get your Christmas advent calendar ready

Christmas advent calendars are always a favorite in our household. In the past, we’ve ended up with the chocolate ones from the grocery store, but I’d like to do it a bit differently this year.  

If your family is religious, Pink Fortitude has some lovely advent scripture printables to help you count down the days while celebrating the hope and love of the season.

If your younger ones want a more hands-on calendar, try the Lego’s City advent calendar, where they build a different small Lego toy every day! This is more expensive than the ones from the grocery store, but it’s a set that they can build with for a long time.

Or maybe you want to start your advent tradition; this beautifully decorated wooden Christmas Tree advent calendar can be used every year, handed down to future generations! Make your own small gifts, or chocolates, or handwritten notes to hide behind each day’s number!

Or to bring to the fun (or relaxation) to a friend The English Tea Shop’s advent calendar is a great way to sample new flavors and still take part in counting down the days until Christmas.

Yes, some of the above calendars are spendy, but you can reuse them. But in my heart, I still prefer the $2 chocolate candy filled ones.

Seven – mail a letter to Santa

I remember going through the Toys R Us holiday catalog and cutting out toys that I wanted and pasting them onto my letter to Santa! But sad to say that this next generation of kids won’t experience that particular catalog.  

You can still make it a fun afternoon crafting your kiddo’s perfect letter. You can make your own with just pen & paper, or here is a great inexpensive option if you want a cute formatted Santa letter. Or if you’re an Elf on the Shelf household, then be sure to check out this option, complete with book and special paper!

Christmas bucket list items at home

Eight- bake some Christmas cookies

The holidays aren’t really the holidays unless you have treats right? That’s why this is my favorite item on our Christmas bucket list on a budget list! Your cookies don’t have to be fancy; they don’t have to taste amazing either. You just need to have a good time with your family making them! You can pick red & green frosting, or sprinkles or holiday shapes, basically anything you want!  

If you have little hands baking, here are some good cookie cutters with safety tops, as you don’t want super sharp metal. For some holiday cookie inspiration, check out The Christmas Cookie Cookbook (over 100 holiday cookie recipes!)

You already have most of the baking ingredients; you may need to invest in some sprinkles. Maybe about $5 – $15.

Nine – make your house smell like the holidays

I happen to be in love with Christmas pomanders (but I didn’t know it was called this until writing this). Basically, it’s an orange with a bunch of cloves stuck in it, and it smells heavenly! My mother used to make a decorative bowl of these and put it on our hall entry table, so you smelled it right when you walked in! Check out Hello Homebody post to learn how to make your own, I promise you’ll love it!

You may have cloves already in your pantry, but if not, then this should cost less than $12 for small oranges and cloves.

An even cheaper way to make your house smell like Christmas is to decorate with evergreen boughs. Just go to a place where taking cuttings is permitted (get a variety of greens – juniper, pine, holly) and make your own decorations!

Ten – make your own holiday decorations

There are so many wonderful ways to decorate your home that are inexpensive! Not only will it be a fun activity for your kids, but they will be keepsakes to remember each year when you pull them out! Here are a few of my favorites

  • These origami waterbombs are great because you can use any color scheme you want to fit in with your home decor! These are perfect for kids a little bit older with patience and can pay attention to the process.
  • Another memory that I have is making cinnamon ornaments when I was little, they smell amazing and can be made in any shape/design that you wish! (now good cinnamon is fairly expensive, so be sure to buy some that is not spendy for this activity).
  • This gumdrop Christmas tree is so fun! I can picture a whole mantle with different sized “trees” to have a more modern feel to it!

Eleven – learn about other countries Christmas traditions from around the world

An excellent way for kids to learn about other cultures is by experiencing traditional food dishes. So if you feel that you’ve done all the “regular” holiday traditions type stuff, this is a fun item to layer in! Check out Love These Recipes for her free Christmas Around the World Cookbook for kids!

Twelve – have a holiday game night

Now, this activity can get spendy in a hurry, so be sure that you are getting games that will appeal year after year. This Christmas Monopoly game is sure to be a hit!

This award-winning Santa Claus game teaches younger kiddos that it’s fun to give (as well as receive). Which can all agree kiddos need some encouragement in this area.

Who doesn’t love Rudolph? This Aquarius Rudolph the Red-Nosed Journey board game is perfect for the whole family! You’ll journey through the icy winter wonderland finding all the misfit toys and bringing them back to Santa so he can give them to all the little good girls & boys!

Or if you’re looking more for holiday party games, be sure to check out the fan-favorite holiday Minute to Win It games from Play Party Plan!

Take a break between games for some treats! A fun way to make treat time special is an indoor electric S’Mores maker. No campfire smoke or hungry bears included! Just yummy treat time, which you can use throughout the year!

Thirteen – grab some Christmas crackers

These are a traditional holiday favorite from around the world! Each Christmas Cracker in this set contains a party hat, a joke, and a small gift. They are sure to make your holiday dinner memorable!

Fourteen – Make your own gingerbread house

Now, I would like to think that I am an amazing chef. Yet, I know this isn’t true. Still, one year I would like to make our own gingerbread houses from scratch!  Easy Budget Recipes has a great post with a free template and a video!  

Could this be the year that my inner creative cooking genius comes out? Maybe! But even if it doesn’t come out perfect, that’s not the important part. The important part is that my little one and I have a great day doing it!

Fifteen – A Christmas Movie Marathon

This one is such a cliche, as OF COURSE you’re going to have a movie marathon on your Christmas bucket list! Be sure to check out all your video subscriptions before buying new ones. Disney + is sure to have a lot, Netflix has some cute original holiday content, and check Amazon Prime too if you subscribe.

Mix in black & white classics with cartoons, and even some Hallmark holiday favorites too! I won’t give you a list of must-watch movies, as there are already 67,956 posts about great holiday movies. But this is a great frugal option, even one you could repeat every weekend is you want!

Yet, if you do want uplevel your movie marathon, you can always splurge and tell the family that festive holiday apparel is requested!

You can’t go wrong with matching family holiday Snoopy pajamas! I mean, right? Or if you want a more practical item, the fan in your family could have a festive Star Wars sweatshirt! Or for the young man of the household a Marvel Avengers gingerbread hoody!  

If your family members are movie buffs maybe uplevel the experience to include a holiday movie trivia quiz! Everyone thinks they’re a pro and it might be time to crown the winner and end the debate once and for all!

Sixteen – send some Christmas cheer with a homemade card

If you have a little crafter in your house, making Christmas cards can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. With this activity, you need to be mindful of your budget, as all crafters know that buying supplies can be a budget slippery slope!  

Wandering Hoof Ranch has a great post on making your own cards, and she even uses some items from nature to make your cards unique (and save some money). She uses pine needles, twigs and greenery along with ribbons and cut-outs to make the cards shine!

Seventeen – snuggle up with a holiday picture book

Every night, either my husband or myself read books to our little one. During Christmas, I bring out the box of picture books that my mom read to me when I was young. I’m not sure who looks forward to it more, me or my little. But our holiday book time is always special.

Here are some of my favorites (both new and old), gleaned from over 40 holiday seasons…

As an adult, I reread The Christmas Story by Jean Shepard every year. Even though the book takes place all throughout the year, it still retains the holiday feel.

Now you don’t need to buy these, please go to your local library and check them out for free! My best advice is to go the day after Thanksgiving, as holiday books always get checked out fast!

Make storytime even more special by reading in front of the tree every night!

holiday planner mockup

Christmas bucket list items to do in town

Eighteen – Go downtown to see the festive holiday fun 

Going out to “shop” doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. One of my favorite things as a child was going downtown to see all the department store window displays! One Pacific NW store would always do their windows themed on the 12 Days of Christmas song. So we’d park, get some hot chocolate from the coffee shop, wander the streets, look at the displays, and enjoy the holiday hustle & bustle!

We’d time it to coincide with the special holiday tree lighting event, which is another great free option for families to do! Just Google “tree lighting + your town” to find out local times & places.

Don’t forget to have your own day to do some relaxed Christmas shopping, either alone or with a good friend. When you’re out don’t forget to see if you see anything that you want for Christmas, be sure to write it down with the name of the store and send it to your spouse!

What? You don’t need anything for Christmas? Of course not, but what do you want for Christmas? If you’re not sure be sure to look here for inspiration on finding the perfect gift for mom (aka YOU)!

Nineteen – pick a Giving Tree item

While you’re downtown, see if any of the businesses are hosting a Giving Tree. This is where the business (in partnership, usually with a local nonprofit) will put up a tree with gift tags on it. The tags will tell you about a family or person who needs an item for the holiday.

It’s an excellent activity for families to do together. It helps teach children about the importance of helping others and learn that gifting can be just as rewarding as receiving a gift. Bringing joy to people should be tops on all of our Christmas bucket list!

Twenty – find a choral event

Listening to Christmas carols, or a choral show can be a special holiday moment. Even if you happen to be walking along the street and see a quartet singing take the time to stop and listen. Appreciating the moments as you find them (and not rushing around like crazy) can turn an ordinary day into a very special one. Especially for little ones who don’t see live signing very often.

Twenty One – celebrate the season of giving

One of my favorite things during the holidays (as a child) was to donate to bell ringers at storefronts. The Salvation Army has a long tradition of hosting bell ringers, and you can even volunteer for a shift! What a great way for older children to give back to their community.

Or it’s an excellent way for smaller children to donate their change to a worthy cause! For my own little, she has three money jars, one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. The holidays are a perfect time to open her giving jar, and she can directly donate to the ringer’s red kettle.

The Red Kettle campaign raised $147 million in 2018 to help over 23 million Americans with food, shelter, and social services!

Twenty Two – do a random act of kindness

Another great way to have your children develop their sense of community is to do a random act of kindness. One time during the holiday season, we go out to eat with the intention of doubling our bill. Whatever the total is for our food, we give the same amount as a tip. Now, we’re not going out for lobster or anything crazy. Just a meal, where our server gets a nice surprise.

This activity doesn’t have to be big; you can pay for the car behind you in the drive-thru, or in the past, we’ve brought donuts for the volunteers & staff at a local animal shelter.  

Your kindness doesn’t even have to cost anything. You can shovel snow for your elderly neighbor, or get groceries for them. You can put up Christmas lights on their house, or bake them cookies.  

For more Christmas kindness activities, be sure to check out Coffee and Carpool’s post for 24 great ways to help kiddos be kind to others!

Twenty Three – drive around and look at the Christmas lights

A great impromptu free activity can be everyone piling in the car and driving around some neighborhoods to look at the Christmas lights! Bring some blankets so you can roll down your windows to get a better view (and some houses have coordinating music)! Here’s a cute Christmas light scavenger hunt to make even more of an event for your kiddos!

Twenty Four – go find some snow!

It seems that white Christmases are a thing of the past, well, I’ve never had snow at Christmas. But many times, we’ve driven up into the mountains to find some holiday fun! Whether you drive up to a lodge to relax for an afternoon or go adventuring into a state or national park, be sure to take a moment and build a snowman! Bring some rocks for eyes, carrot for a nose and a scarf to complete the outfit, because you have to take pictures!

Twenty Five – experience a candlelight service

I wasn’t raised in a very religious household, and we never really went to church. Yet, we did always go to Christmas Eve candlelight service at our grandparent’s church. I must admit there was something magical about it, with everyone quiet and serene. The choir singing in the candlelight glow.  

So, even though I’m not religious (and you may or may not be), I can respect the service and feel the warmth. I encourage everyone to go at least once. Ask your friends where they go or look at your town’s local Facebook group for suggestions.

At the end of the day

My most important tip on enjoying your Christmas bucket list is not to try and do it all! Plan to under schedule your family outings as little ones (and moms) get tuckered out easily with everything that is going on! Spend money on the activities that really speak to your family and then let the others pass by. Besides, there’s always next year! So be sure that you are taking the time to actual enjoy the holiday season!

Whatever you do, these frugal Christmas family traditions will help make memories for years to come! Many of my fond memories are at Christmas, and I swear that one year I even saw Santa flying in his sleigh, totally true story! I hope you’ll add some of these frugal Christmas bucket list items, and find a new family favorite tradition!

Articles related to Christmas Bucket List

holiday planner mockup

What are you putting on your holiday traditions list?


50+ of the Best Debt Free Quotes to Motivate You to Finally Dump Your Debt

50+ debt free quotes to inspire you to finally dump your debt

Sometimes the best motivator is a hug, and sometimes it’s a swift kick in the butt from some cold hard truth! Here are the best debt free quotes to do just that!

I love a good underdog story! Seriously, I love it when a person is down on their luck, and they spend all their time crying. Then they decide to kick a little butt and then swing out in front at the very end of the story. Everyone cheers, moms cry, and good game butt slaps for everyone!

Is this the point where Queen sings We Are the Champions?  I hope not.

The point is that it is so dang motivating to see people overcome their past, their fears, their own ideas about who they are, and decide to kick all that to the curb and put their game face on! I love the determination, the promise that hard work pays off, and the achievement they will be proud of for the rest of their lives.

The true magic isn’t in the movies; it’s in real life. Let me tell you, I am moved to tears (almost) every time I listened to the Dave Ramsey podcast and heard people yell out their debt-free scream. True story. I’d be driving to work at 7 am with tears in my eyes, as I could just feel their excitement and their pride in taking control of their lives and getting out of debt.

Now we can’t all be on the DR podcast, spilling the deets of our debt payoff story. So I’ve rounded up some of the best debt quotes and debt free quotes to help motivate you to take charge! So you can either start on your debt-free journey or help crush the last little bit of debt that you’ve been working so hard to dump!

50+ debt quotes to inspire you to finally dump your debt

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info

America the great (debtor)

It’s common knowledge that Americans are deep in debt, yet it’s staggering when we see the actual amount. As of Sept 2020, Nerdwallet found that the average US household held debt of $145,085, to the turn of $14.35 trillion nationwide.

That figure includes all debt, but when people talk about debt, they are mostly talking about credit card debt. According to the same study the average household carries $7,027 on their cards, and they’ll pay an average of $1,155 in interest this year (2020).

Can you imagine, taking $1,155 and flushing it down the toilet? Ugh!

Now, I do want to say that some credit card purchases are a must spend, things like car repair when it’s your only mode of transportation to get to work. A new HVAC system, when yours died in the middle of winter. Those things are necessary, and I understand and support those that need to do it.

But debt that is frivolous makes my heart hurt – new iPhones, excess clothes, eating out 5 nights a week, those things are what is dragging Americans down.

So what do we do? We change! It’s the only option, yet people don’t change when they’re comfortable, they change because they are either inspired or they’re forced to. No one wats to be forced to do anything, so instead let’s inspire! I found some of the best debt quotes to do just that!

Debt quotes

“Rich people plan for three generations. Poor people plan for Saturday night.”
– Gloria Steinem

“Overspending while trying to raise one’s status is a condition of economic materialism which hurts people financially, because it usually results in unnecessary debt. One does not raise social strata by buying things but instead by acquiring enough wealth to qualify for the next category of wealth.”
– Zachariah Renfro

“When you buy a bigger house, another luxury car, or a fancy boat, you are showing people that you used to have money.”
– Christopher Manske

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.”
– Zig Ziglar

“[Credit is a system whereby] a person who can’t pay, gets another person who can’t pay, to guarantee that he can pay.”
– Charles Dickens

debt quote from bejamin jowett

“Every time you borrow money, you’re robbing your future self.”
– Nathan W. Morris

“A Debt Problem Is, At Its Core, a Budgeting Problem.”
– Natalie Pace

“The basic thing with frugality is: IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT, DON’T BUY IT.”
– Harken Headers

“Know what you own, and know why you own it.”
– Peter Lynch

“Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them.”
– Ogden Nash

“Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think.”
– Noam Chomsky

“A good name is still to be preferred over great riches. Especially it is to be preferred to the appearance of riches, acquired with nothing down and nothing to pay for 2 months.”
– Ezra Taft Benson

debt quote from richard armour

“To grasp why people bury themselves in debt, you don’t need to study interest rate: you need to study the history of greed, insecurity, and optimism.”
– Morgan Housel

“Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most.”
– American Proverb

“No man’s credit is as good as his money.”
– E.W. Howe

“Speak not of my debts unless you mean to pay them.”
– George Herbert

“Creditors have better memories than debtors.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.”
– Rutherford B. Hayes

debt quotes from robert kiyosaki

“Debt can turn a free, happy person into a bitter human being.”
– Michael Mihalik

“Debt on anything that depreciates is disastrous.”
– Orrin Woodward

“The man who never has money enough to pay his debts has too much of something else.”
– James Lendall Basford

“Some people use one half their ingenuity to get into debt, and the other half to avoid paying it.”
– George D Prentice

“Debt is one person’s liability, but another person’s asset.”
– Paul Krugman

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.”
– George Lorimer

“In God we trust; all others must pay cash.”
– unknown

debt quote from ralph waldo emerson

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
– Proverbs 22:7

“Ten million dollars after I’d become a star, I was deeply in debt.”
– Sammy Davis Jr

“Do not accustom yourself to consider debt only as an inconvenience; you will find it a calamity.”
– Samuel Johnson

“A creditor is worse than a slave-owner; for the master owns only your person, but a creditor owns your dignity and can command it.”
– Victor Hugo

“One of the greatest disservices you can do a man is to lend him money that he can’t pay back.”
– Jesse H Jones

“Debt is like any other trap, easy enough to get into, but hard enough to get out of.”
– Josh Billings

debt quotes from unknown author

“Wars in old times were made to get slaves. The modern implement of imposing slavery is debt.”
– Ezra Pound

“Don’t let your mouth write a check that your ass can’t cash, son.”
– Charles Portis

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting out of debt.”
– Dave Ramsey

You can’t talk about debt without have Dave Ramsey be a part of it! He is the debt payoff king, and for good reason! He has helped tens of thousands of people payoff debt and build wealth with his baby step process.

“Debt is a prolific mother of folly and of crime.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

“Debt basically enables people to live a lie.”
– Rachel Cruze

“Words pay no debts.”
– William Shakespeare

debt quote from thomas tussar

“Credit buying is much like being drunk. The buzz happens immediately and gives you a lift… The hangover comes the day after.”
– Joyce Brothers 

“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.”
– unknown

“Rich people believe ‘I create my life.” Poor people believe ‘Life happens to me’”
– T. Harv Eker

“Home life ceases to be free and beautiful as soon as it is founded on borrowing and debt.”
– Henrik Ibsen

“The decision to go into debt alters the course condition of your life. You no longer own it. You are owned.”
– Dave Ramsey

Being “debt free” quotes

Some of these quotes talk about the peace that freedom from debt can bring, while others are more “motivational quotes” to inspire those on their debt free journey!

“What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?”
– Adam Smith

“Out of debt, out of danger.”
– Jerry Voorhis

“I make myself rich by making my wants few.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“His brow is wet with honest sweat; he earns whate’er he can, And looks the whole world in the face, For he owes not any man.” 
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“It always seems impossibble until it’s done.”
– Nelson Mandela

debt quotes - unknown author

“Pay off your debt first. Freedom from debt is worth more than any amount you can earn.”
– Mark Cuban

“A healthy and debt free living person is the richest and the happiest.”
– Sushmitha Maddula

“Sometimes we’re tested not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths.”
– unknown

“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
– unknown

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”
– Roy T Bennett

“Perseverance is teh hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
– Newt Gingrich

“Learning is never done without errors and defeat.”
– Vladimir Lenin

At the end of the day

Yes, clichés are so cliché. But that doesn’t stop them from being right/true! People for centuries have been talking about the negative effects of debt; not one talks about how great it is. Yet, in today’s age, so many of us find ourselves in debt, looking for a way out.

I hope you found a little bit of inspiration on this page of debt quotes, maybe a new mantra to help you when times are hard. Either way, know that other people have struggled with debt, and many have overcome it. You will too! Soon enough you could be sharing your own story, writing your own debt free quotes to inspire others!

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Which of the debt free quotes are your favorite?