The Holiday Season is the busiest time of year, full of family and friends, good food – and spending. Between the parties, travel to be with family, and gift-giving, it’s practically inevitable you’ll be dishing out a lot of dough. But you don’t have to go into debt during the Holidays that leaves you financially hungover in January and behind for the rest of next year. Plan ahead to minimize your debt, or better yet, not rack up any at all! Avoid the debt collectors by following these 8 simple tips to keep your Holiday spending on track:
Get On A Budget
Start the season out right by planning how much you can reasonably afford to spend and limit yourself to that, no ifs, ands, or buts. This means you’re going to have to budget for those unexpected holiday expenses that tend to pop up.Treat All of Your Expenditures Like Cash – Don’t set yourself up for failure by walking into the glitzy shopping mall with three credit cards and no idea of what you plan to buy. Preferably pay in cash, but if you use a credit card, treat it like cash – plan to pay off the balance at the end of the month to avoid incurring interest fees.Don’t Use the Store Retail Cards – These may be tempting, but don’t fall into the habit of applying for store credit cards simply for the 15% off coupon they’ll give you. Each time you apply for one of these it will hit your credit report and can make you look desperate for credit lines. Plus, these cards generally carry high interest rates – often at percentages in the 20s! Steer clear of this shiny Holiday shopping lure.Be Creative With Your Gifts – Think from the heart instead from the wallet for a change this season. Are you an aspiring artist? Do you have the best gingerbread recipe in town? Consider something homemade, sentimental, for a gift. Chances are you’ll save money and your loved one will appreciate the gift all the more for it!
If you’re like most Americans, you will manage to rack up a measure of debt during the Holidays despite your best efforts. Don’t despair; you can still right the ship financially without spending the whole year trying to pay it off. It will just take a little planning:
Set A Definite Payoff Date
Try to put a plan in place right away to pay your debt off as soon as possible. Maybe it’s March 31st, the end of the first quarter, or maybe you want the debt gone by the time the kids are off school for the summer. Stick to your plan and know exactly how you will pay it off in order to make all you financial decisions fall in line.Scrimp and Sacrifice Where You Can – Are you getting a Starbucks every morning before work? Make coffee at home. Are you eating lunches out during the work day? Bring a sack lunch. Cut down on dining out, entertainment, and the cable bill – wherever you can. You probably received some gift cards during the Holidays, so make good use of those.Pay off Your Debts in a Smart Order – Plan to pay off your cards with the highest interest first, making the maximum payment you can afford on those and just the minimum payments on the others. Work your way down the line with your cards so you can avoid paying high interest rates if possible.Plan for Next Year’s Holiday Season – It’s okay if you take advantage of post-Holiday sales, so long as you’re doing it for the right reason. That cashmere sweater that went on sale for $90 from $120? Probably not the best choice. But decorations, household goods, and practical things you can save until next season will help you curtail spending next year and stop the revolving cycle of debt.
There’s No Way To Get Around It
You’re going to be spending money during the Holiday season. But if you plan early and spend wisely, you can make sure that this Holiday season is one full of merriment instead of financial misery.