2 moms who paid off more than $300,000 in debt share tips for not going into debt at Christmas

Chonce Rhea, mother of a 9 year old son, has been there and has done so when it comes to spending too much on Christmas.
The 27-year-old from Chicago has paid off $ 50,000 in debt over the past three years from spending outside of her budget.
"When he was young, I gave him a big Christmas present and thought that was the way to do things," said Rhea, founder of MyDebtEpiphany.com, a personal finance blog, of her son. "But I've found that he really wants to hang out with me."
PHOTO: Chicago-based Chonce Rhea poses with her 9-year-old son Jordan. (Chonce Rhea)
"And I want to spend time with my child and not work overtime and experience nothing with them for Christmas," she added.
Across the country, in California, Lauren Mochizuki, an emergency room nurse and mother of two, said she also had a Christmas party a few years ago when she and her husband were in debt more than $ 250,000.
Some of that debt came from the couple's Christmas spending, when they spent thousands of dollars on gifts even before children were born without a game plan.
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"It was like, 'It's Christmas time. Time to get your credit card out and buy,'" Mochizuki recalled. "I found it incredibly overwhelming. It was really stressful because nothing was thought or planned in advance."
Mochizuki, who shares her tips on saving money at CasaMochi.com, said planning for Christmas is one way she and her husband could tackle their debt.
PHOTO: Lauren Mochizuki of California poses with her husband and two children. (Courtesy Lauren Mochizuki)
"It has helped me bring peace to a stressful time," she said. "And because we have a budget for Christmas all year round, we can still spend a good amount, which is fine because it's one of our favorite times of the year."
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Mochizuki, like Rhea, found a few easy ways not to be left behind with a low bank account and high credit card fees in the New Year.
Here are their tips.
Working Backwards: First, write down the names of everyone you want to buy for, then next to their names write the amount of money you want to spend. Add that total to get a total and adjust as needed to set your Christmas budget.
"Setting your budget is the first step because then you realize you can be responsible," said Mochizuki, who transfers the list to the Notes app on her phone for instant access and visibility.
Use a visual reminder: Mochizuki said having something visual to see how much she and her husband saved helped them pay off their debts.
She created a Christmas savings tracker that people can use to keep track of how they are reaching their Christmas savings goal. You can have it wherever you are in the savings process or change it to keep track of how much you are spending.
PHOTO: Lauren Mochizuki of California poses with her husband and two children. (Courtesy Lauren Mochizuki / CasaMochi.com)
Now finalize the gift ideas: Mochizuki has a plan for how to put everyone on her list by early December so she can keep an eye on the products and buy them when they're for sale.
Check your calendar for non-gift expenses: tickets to Christmas carols, bringing a bottle of wine to a Christmas party, buying an ugly sweater for a themed party, or participating in a gift exchange at work are the costs you will be buying can take your budget, according to Rhea and Mochizuki.
They suggest checking your calendar now to see what you have planned or want to do in December and a note of what each event will cost. Then make sure you budget for these or take away some of the activities that may be too expensive.
“I love doing things with my family, but I'm always looking for ways to save or find discounts,” Rhea said, noting that she was searching online for free activities and coupons near her. "What I remember as a kid isn't my gifts, it's free activities where we loved to play Christmas carols, where my mom worked, wore pajamas, and had breakfast together."
Keep receipts nearby to check for sales: "I keep all printed receipts in a folder and right next to my computer. If I have downtime or the kids are in bed, I review them for five or ten minutes" said Mochizuki. "If the items I bought go on sale for less than what I originally bought, I'll return them or check the price."
Try having a secret Santa in the family: "I have four siblings and my husband has three siblings and they have kids too, so it's a lot," Rhea said. "On Thanksgiving, when we all meet, we put names on a hat and draw a person to give a gift to, and we always set a budget."
Plan for Christmas all year round: Christmas shopping is in full swing now, but looking ahead to the next year, start saving as soon as the new year comes.
Rhea puts money in a high-yield savings account every month for Christmas, while Mochizuki keeps it in her regular savings account but has a Christmas category in her budget tracker so she knows how much money is being allocated.
"Technically, Christmas is planned a year in advance because we always put money into that budget," Mochizuki said.
Editor's Note: This was originally published on November 29, 2019.
2 mothers who paid off more than $ 300,000 in debt-sharing tips for getting out of debt for Christmas originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com

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