The winter holiday season could easily be renamed the winter spending season. On average, Americans will be spending more money on gifts for the holiday season in 2018 than they did last year. Gallup reports that US adults estimate that they will spend approximately $885 on gifts this year. Unfortunately, all that holiday spending can lead to holiday credit card debt and a big debt hangover when the New Year rolls around.
Whatever you plan on spending during the holidays, there are ways to keep your holiday credit card debt to a minimum so you can start your year on a solid financial foot. Even though the shopping season is in full swing, it’s not too late to make a plan to emerge debt free in January.
Set a Budget and Save
This holiday season, just like Santa Claus, make a list, then check it twice. Figure out who you’ll buy gifts for and how much you can truly afford to spend on each person. Along with your list of gift recipients, create a budget for the little details that go along with the holidays, such as the cost of decorations, going out to eat, or host gifts for people throwing holiday parties.
Compare the amount you expect to spend during the season with the amount you have set aside for the holidays. If you don’t have any money set aside, look at your anticipated spending in contrast with the amount you’ll earn over the next few weeks. You might have to cross a few names off your list or tone it down on the decor so that you don’t end up in debt.
Stick with Cash
One simple way to avoid holiday credit card debt is to resist the urge to use your credit cards when out shopping. Using cash not only means you don’t have to worry about debt, it also changes the way you approach shopping and spending. People who pay with cash are more likely to focus on the cost of what they are buying rather than its benefits. Many people find that using cash as a payment actually makes it more difficult to buy something and causes them to think more carefully about what they are purchasing. Using cash instead of credit is a reliable way to keep your spending under control.
Ignore Tempting Deals
Holiday shopping might seem like it’s all about getting deals, but some of those deals might not be such a bargain after all—especially if you end up paying interest or fees on them later. If you’re offered a deal on a store credit card, for example, weigh its value carefully. Will you be able to pay off the balance before interest is added? Keep in mind that opening a bunch of store credit cards during the holiday season could have a negative impact on your credit score, too.
Make a Pact
If you are worried about being able to afford the holiday season this year, talk to your friends and family about it. It could be that everyone is secretly worrying about affording gifts for others. You can make a pact with your loved ones to give handmade gifts or to only give gifts to the children in your lives, not to the adults.
The holiday season might be about being generous and giving, but if that giving is leading you deeper into debt, it might be time to reevaluate. During the holidays, it’s the thought that counts—not how much you spend on everyone.
The CESI Team is committed to helping you reach your financial goals. If debt keeps you from living the life you dream of, contact us for a free debt analysis today and get started on the road to a brighter future!
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
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