Don’t Procrastinate: Zero In on Holiday Budgets Before You Spend
Don’t look now because before you know it the season of giving — and spending — will be upon us. Don’t wait until the credit card bills arrive in January to think about how you’re going to pay for your holiday spending. Start now and consider these planning tips.
Have a realistic budget and stick to it. The American Bankers Association’s annual holiday spending survey showed that one third of consumers had no holiday budget last year. Creating a budget and keeping to it can help you to avoid spending beyond your means.
To avoid the overspending trap, make a list of possible gifts and spending limits a month or two in advance. But make sure you cover all your bases. In addition to gifts, include the cost of postage and shipping, travel and entertaining, even wrapping paper and decorations.
Be a smart shopper. Watch the newspapers and advertising flyers for sales or discount coupons for items you plan to buy. Be flexible and realize that you may need to juggle your schedule to take advantage of the best sales. When possible, put off gift buying until after the holidays. This is when department stores reduce sale prices even more to make room for spring merchandise.
Try not to “charge it.” It can take the average shopper months — or even years — to pay off holiday spending debt. If you must use a credit card, use only one — preferably a bank credit card. Avoid department store cards, which usually charge a much higher interest rate.
Give of yourself. Your time and talents are often viewed as more meaningful than any gift you could buy. Give an elderly friend or relative a certificate for a home-cooked meal or an afternoon of gardening. Teens can offer to baby-sit, read to the elderly, or wash windows. Homemade items such as jams and jellies or handicrafts also make great, inexpensive gifts.
This year, why not give yourself a gift by planning ahead for the holidays? With a little forethought and creativity you can keep your holiday spirit without losing your wallet.
©2004 Standard & Poor’s Financial Communications. All rights reserved.
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