Practical Tips for a Debt-Free Holiday
If you have a tendency to overspend when it comes to gift buying for the holidays, you’re certainly not alone. Billions will be spent over the Holiday season, and not all of it smartly. Countless consumers find themselves in the same cash strapped and sinking boat when the bills come in January. But, there is a way to not let that happen! Keep reading, to learn some practical tips for a debt-free holiday. Your wallet will be glad you did.
Create a Budget and Gift List
Creating both a REALISTIC budget and a gift list BEFORE you shop is absolutely one of the best and easiest ways to eliminate a mountain of post-holiday bills. Figure out your approximate budget, first. Then make your recipient list. Maybe this is the year to be brutal and cut some of the extras from that list. Talk to the adults in your family and see if you can perhaps draw names for one gift rather than buying for everyone! In our family we do a $30 gift for an adult, then we play rob your neighbor. For best results, it’s recommended that you buy one gift per person, instead of two or three smaller items. Chances are, the first option will cost you less than several small gifts, and be nicer.
Avoid Credit Card Spending, UNLESS…
…YOU are very disciplined! Statistics indicate that shoppers who use credit cards spend up to 18 percent more on holiday gifts. Why? Because the actual cash isn’t leaving your hands, it is easy to say that you will pay that off later, NO problem. It is too easy to buy things that you actually cannot afford, even at great deal prices. If you’re concerned about the purchase protection that comes with using credit cards, then limit yourself to a single rewards-based card that will actually be useful to your life. AND make sure that you pay that card off immediately, as soon as the bill comes in so you don’t forget. Accruing interest on Uncle Bob’s sweater just is NOT the way to ring in the new year.
Save Money with Shopping Apps and Cashback Sites
There are scads of shopping apps available today, many of them at no cost to you. KNOW your prices! Use apps like Amazon, Flip and Cartwheel to compare and look for sale items already on your list, get coupons to save money, and to get ideas for gifts you’re still unsure about. Also, when you shop online, try using a site like Ebates or TopCashBack which pay you a percentage of your purchase in cash! [See Earning with Cashback Sites this Holiday]
Keep Track of Purchases
Keeping track of purchases as you make them helps you maintain a debt-free holiday. When you don’t write down what you buy, as soon as the transaction is complete, you run the risk of overspending… simply because you can’t remember all that you’ve gotten who. Keep that list with you so that anytime you buy something, you can add it to your list and cross of that name! I like to also add what I spent on the gift so I KNOW where I am at and can adjust accordingly.
Don’t Allow Guilt Dictate Your Spending
If you need to cut back on spending, don’t allow guilt to talk you into buying things for people you need to trim from your list. Most people will understand your situation and won’t hold it against you if you can’t afford to buy them anything. Consider a gift of your time (free babysitting or handyman help, for example) or make it yourself. [See 30 Easy and Frugal DIY Holiday Gifts] ALSO, don’t get guilted by your kids into spending more than you can afford or are comfortable with. We all want to get our kids everything, but set a limit and STICK TO IT.
Shop All Year
Spreading your holiday purchases over an entire year will lessen the pressure and panic of having to come up with all those funds at once. You will make better choices financially in December if you already have half or more of your shopping done before Thanksgiving! Be smart about it though. Don’t just grab stuff at full price, but if you see something that you know your picky Sister-in-Law will love, by all means grab it. And shopping for the next year right after Christmas this year is a great way to stock up on wrapping paper and cheap gifts for your gift closet. [See How to Build A Gift Closet without Breaking Your Budget] Don’t get stuck paying full price at the last minute when you can stock some gifts at home — purchased on awesome sales, of course!
These are practical tips for a debt-free holiday, and you can adjust them to suit your situation. But even by taking advantage of just one or two of them, you’ll save money. The most important thing to remember is this. Christmas isn’t all about presents. It’s about spending time with family and the spirit of the season.