Don’t Break the Bank this Holiday Season

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By Terry Rogers

The holiday shopping season officially kicked off on Black Friday, and early reports show that consumer spending increased by as much 21 percent. According to IBM, who released initial statistics on Monday, November 26, consumer spending on Black Friday this year was the highest it has been since 2010. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year, with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday rounding out those shopping days. With an entire weekend that seems to be dedicated to shopping, it is easy to see how consumers end up with significant credit card debt after the holiday season. However, there are ways to manage those holiday gifts for everyone, keep the financial stress to a minimum and keep a little in your wallet after the season is over.

Create a Budget

Rather than making a list of those you need to buy for and running to the store to start buying, set a budget that includes everything you will need for the holiday season. Be sure to include all holiday expenses, such as postage for holiday cards, additional groceries for holiday baking, party supplies and decorations you may need to purchase.

Make a List

Once you have determined your budget for the season, make list of those you plan to purchase gifts for, making sure to include tips to service people, such as mail carriers, babysitters or trash collectors. Remove people from the list or reduce amounts in order to fit everything into your budget. If you have a big family, suggest drawing names to lower holiday spending.

Use Cash

Another method for gift buying within your budget is to pay only with cash when shopping for gifts. If possible, withdraw your entire budget from your savings or checking account and place it in a separate location. Once the cash is gone, holiday buying ends. If you prefer online shopping, restrict yourself to using only your debit card to make purchases. If you do use a credit card, try to keep the amount charged low enough that you can pay the entire balance the following month to avoid interest charges. Be sure to choose a credit card with the lowest interest rate or one with a cash back benefit.

Plan Ahead

Even the best bargain hunter can get carried away when shopping for holiday gifts. Check sale papers and sign up for email sale notifications to be sure you are benefitting from the many sales offered during the holiday season. However, understand that not all sales are. Try to complete your shopping at least a week or so before the holiday to avoid last minute impulse buying. In addition, if you need to ship gifts, planning ahead can help you avoid additional shipping fees to insure your gift arrives on time.

Look for Unique

Antique and thrift stores offer many unique, interesting gifts that are perfect for that hard-to-buy for person on your list. A collection of antique bottles or a vintage necklace are unique ideas available at low prices in many second-hand stores. Some stores, such as Goodwill, often have name-brand clothing for sale, many with tags still attached. Not only will you find that unique item at a good price, you will be helping promote the works of the charity organization that runs the thrift shop.

These ideas can help you reduce your financial stress this holiday season while still allowing you to give to friends and family.