Ah, the holidays. It's the time of the year when American homes are brimming with turkey dinners and pumpkin pie, eggnog and reindeer sweaters, menorahs and mistletoe, and of course, excessive spending and impending debt. Some studies show that Americans spend on average $1,500 or more each holiday season.
Giving and receiving go with the territory this time of year, but are you giving so much your holiday spending is turning into a holiday headache? Here are some tips to help you reduce your debt—or avoid it altogether—during the holidays:
- Can’t afford it now, can you afford it later? Give your credit cards a rest and only buy things with cash or your debit card. It’s easier to stick to a budget (no matter how small or large) if you are using money that is in your wallet.
- Compare prices online. It can take hours to traverse numerous stores and compare prices to arrive at the best deal. Going door to door means spending time and money traveling. Instead, compare prices online. In a matter of moments, you can compare a half-dozen websites.
- Make a list and check it twice! Impulse buys are a major contributor to overspending so keep to a plan for each person on your list to stay within your budget.
- Let family traditions decide your spending. Most of us can’t remember the gifts we received last year, let alone as a kid. It’s the family traditions and time with loved ones that make memories and really stand out. Start spending with your traditions in mind first, then all the rest can take a back seat.
- Shhhh...it’s a secret! Do you have a large family or network of friends that exchanges gifts? Try doing a secret gift exchange where everyone draws one name and buys only for that person. It’s a lot more fun guessing who might have pulled your name, and you only spend money on one gift!
- One for you, one for me. It’s easy to get caught up in all the shopping and be swayed to your favorite section of the mall. Just because you are in a spending mood doesn’t mean you should be spending it on yourself. If you do come across something you would like, put it on your wish list and save your family or friends from having to guess at what you want.
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Before you run out and buy all new holiday décor in this season's hottest colors, take stock of the decorations you already have. Do you really need to buy all new wreaths, twinkle lights and snowman figurines? Probably not. Even if Pottery Barn claims, "Silver and plum are this season's must-have colors!" don't bend under the catalog pressure. Stick with your existing decorations, and incorporate trends and colors with less expensive touches like ribbons or candles—or visit your local craft store to see what you can make.