In our last post, we covered strategies to help you survive holiday stress. It only seemed appropriate this week that we discuss ways to avoid the most stressful part of the holidays: impending debt. It happens to many of us every year. We try to go above and beyond to surprise those on our list. Then, when the next year arrives, we are often still paying on the previous year’s purchases. Read on for strategies to help with avoiding the stress of holiday debt.
1. Make sure your bills are paid, on time, before purchasing gifts for family and friends. Choosing to delay or skip payment of a bill altogether can serve as a slippery slope, one of which it can be difficult to climb off. Paying your bills routinely is essential to avoiding the stress of holiday debt.
2. Avoid the use of credit cards. Leave these out of your purse or wallet if you feel you can’t say no to the urge. It’s easier to overspend when it isn’t being deducted from your bank account or the cash in front of you. You might also accrue lots of interest if it isn’t paid off when the first bill is received, which is rarely done by consumers.
3. An addendum to the last strategy, but just as noteworthy, don’t allow department stores to lure you with a discount for applying for their “exclusive” card. What they don’t disclose to you is that the interest you will most likely end up paying will far exceed the discount you received for signing up. There’s always something in it for them and they aren’t doing you any favors.
4. Only choose layaway options if you are disciplined and can be sure you will set aside some funds each payday. You may incur additional fees if your items aren’t paid in full by the initial scheduled date.
5. Create a holiday budget. Don’t forget to include gift wrap, bows, and gift bags. Designate a specific amount from each payday. Don’t feel pressured to do all your shopping in one day.
6. In addition to creating an overall holiday budget, make a list of those for which you plan to purchase gifts. Assign a dollar amount to each person and don’t feel obligated to spend the same amount on each. Holiday sales are great opportunities to purchase items of a certain value at a much lower cost. Also, if it helps to withdraw cash and separate each person’s allotment into envelopes or a coupon organizer, do it. Pull out all the stops.
7. While we do suggest avoiding credit card sign-up discounts, there are often coupons available in holiday sale circulars. Also , check the store’s website for in-store coupons. If you’re an online shopper, search for the store’s name followed by “coupon code.” RetailMeNot is a great resource. Take advantage of cash-back options through free accounts on sites such as Rakuten and GetUpside. Also, partake in some comparison shopping. Some stores even offer price matching. With holiday shopping trips, there are often meals out or pizza during gift-wrapping sessions. Check for coupons and codes for these as well.
If you weren’t prepared for holiday shopping, we hope these strategies were helpful. Being “ready” for the holidays isn’t simply having your shopping finished. It also involves being equipped with the tools for avoiding the stress of holiday debt. Try a few, or all, of these strategies this year. Your wallet, and your sanity, will thank you.