How to Avoid Going into Debt During the Holidays
By Ric Edelman
Every year Americans collectively spend billions of dollars during the holiday season, much of it on gifts. Unfortunately, too many people overspend on holiday presents and end up starting the New Year with large credit card bills that take them months to eliminate.
No more! Use my holiday shopping advice that will not only save you money, but help keep you out of debt as well.
#1- Make a list of everyone you need to buy a gift for. Santa does it and so should you. (Labeling people as naughty or nice is optional.)
#2- Write down the amount you will spend on each person. Notice I didn’t tell you to write down what you are going to give each person, because that will get you in trouble. If you write down that you’re going to get Aunt Ida a sweater and then you find out that sweaters are more expensive than you thought, you’ll end up going over your budget buying an expensive sweater.
So instead, decide that you’re going to spend $40 on Aunt Ida; what you buy with that amount doesn’t matter. Once you’ve determined how much you’re spending on each person, add it up. If that grand total is more than you want to spend, start cutting. Either strike names from the list or reduce the amount of money you are spending per person until you reach a total dollar amount that you’re comfortable with.
#2.5- Make sure the total you plan to spend includes gift wrap. Make sure you include the costs of wrapping paper, ribbons, gift tags and shipping. Most people forget to include these items and are then surprised by how much they spent. If you haven’t included these costs, go back and add them to your list.
#3- Go to the bank and withdraw cash. If your list adds up to $700, withdraw $700 and leave your credit cards at home when you go to the mall. When you’re out of cash, you’re done. This forces you not to overspend, because if you do, someone will end up with a nice gift and someone else will get nothing.
Originally published in Inside Personal Finance November 2011