How many days is it until Christmas? Holiday shopping can be a financial strain, especially for the majority of Americans who have $15,000 in credit card debt and less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. That means many people are going to start the new year off with more debt.
But we know you don’t want to be a typical American. Even if you don’t have a dime saved up yet for Christmas, it’s not too late. You can still avoid racking up more credit card debt this holiday season — if you start planning now.
Have a plan for your money
Most of us know we have to plan on buying presents. But the holidays come with other expenses, so do your best to think of as many as possible. Brainstorm about what lies ahead, and be honest with yourself. Make sure travel, décor, meals, clothing, and entertainment are all included. Then, do your best to price everything and come up with a total. This is your holiday budget.
Redesign your plans
If you need to reel back your total, look for opportunities to save. Maybe you can save money by updating last year’s outfit with inexpensive accessories. Or, if buying gifts for everyone on your list is a struggle, perhaps it’s time to start a new gift tradition. Draw names, have a secret Santa, set firm price limits, or have some goofy fun with a white elephant gift exchange.
Let’s say you will need $500 in cash to get through the holidays debt-free. How you will you get there? One way is to limit spending in other areas. That could mean putting the brakes on a different financial goal, such as paying ahead on your car loan. Or you could increase your cash flow. Fortunately, this is a time of year when big retailers add to their seasonal workforce, so even a part-time job could get you there.
You should always look for the best possible deal, but you can stack the savings if you shop for discounted gift cards to pay for your presents. This time of year, grocers, and retailers that carry a variety of cards often have sales on select brands. You could also purchase them through a third party, such as eBay or Raise.
If you start planning ahead, the holidays don’t have to bring additional financial stress. Gift yourself the best present ever and start the new year free of holiday debt!