Money for Christmas

Q: My wife and I have been looking for ways to help our family manage our money better. We're doing OK, but with Christmas just around the corner, we don't want to end up in debt again after the holidays. Do you have any suggestions?

A: It's great that you've been able to make some adjustments to manage your money better. Looking ahead is an important step, and you're wise to be planning now. This will make it easier to find the money to pay for holiday expenses without going into debt.

Fall is a great time of the year for cleaning and clearing the clutter. As you're doing your fall cleaning, ask yourself what items you might sell to earn some money for the holidays.

If you haven't used something in at least six months, and it isn't a seasonal item, can you sell it or gift it? One person's junk is another person's treasure, as my father-in-law is fond of saying.

Many people have a hobby and can make great gifts at reduced cost -- woodworking, baking, canning, sewing or wine/beer-making are some examples of homemade items that can be sold or gifted. Clearing out your hobby room is another way to find money for seasonal expenses.

Can you offer services that others would benefit from? House cleaning, babysitting, home/yard maintenance, pet care or tutoring are a few examples.

Providing a service -- before the holidays get busy -- spreads out your time and expenses and may be welcome relief to someone else's holiday preparations.

Brainstorm ideas with your family so that everyone is on the same page to start a new tradition: Holiday fun without the plastic! Some planning now in the fall will save you planning how to pay off your debts in January.