Nothing will ruin Christmas and holiday memories faster than a debt hangover in January. Even if you leave your shopping until close to the end, it’s not too late to make a holiday spending plan – before you hit the stores, that won’t max out your credit cards. Read on for some quick tips on how you can avoid holiday debt this year:
Decide Who You Need to Buy For - Create a Holiday Budget
Make a list of who you need to buy for and what you want to buy. If you’re not sure who will be attending the family dinner, call and ask the hosts or look back at last year’s pictures. Knowing who to buy for will help you avoid buying “stuff” just in case you missed someone.
Gifts that Truly Sparkle - Save Money With Homemade Gifts
Look at your shopping list and decide if you really need to buy for everyone on the list. You still have time to make some personalized gift certificates for those who would value your time, company or help over a store-bought item. Think about babysitting for new parents, helping an older aunt or uncle around their home, or taking a grandparent out for a drive followed by dinner at your house. Homemade gifts can save money, but they also come from the heart which can put a real twinkle in someone’s eyes.
The One Card Secret to Avoiding Debt
Shop using only one credit card. If you have several, choose the credit card with the lowest interest rate and leave all the others at home. Also take a look at the statement cutoff date so that you know when you’ll have to start making payments. Using only one card also makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve spent. Once you’ve bought for someone, cross them off your list so that you don’t keep buying.
Deferred Payment Plans - Buy Now, Pain later
Deferred payment plans with no money down and no payments until next year might sound tempting but could add as much as 50% to everything you buy if you’re not able to pay them off within the grace period of the program. Stick with your more reasonable list and one credit card. Also make a plan to pay off your Christmas credit card debt within 3 - 6 months if possible. Carrying a balance for too long can also easily add 50% to everything you buy and leave you with less money to work with next year.
Sneak into the Mall - Avoid Busy Times and Impulse Shopping
Pick off-peak times to actually do your shopping. Most kids (or is it just the ones on the “nice” list?) are in school until close to Christmas, so hitting the stores during the day might save you some time and help you avoid impulse shopping. Eat before you go and take a bottle of water along. Every little bit of savings will help keep your budget from becoming naughty!
Special Gifts for Kids to Keep Busy
One or two favourite toys is better than a mountain of toys and is less expensive.
If you’re buying for kids, think about what they are interested in and what they would likely play with as soon as they’re done opening their gifts. While it can be easy to think that they would like a mountain of toys, they usually only play with one or two, which become immediate favourites. By buying something they can do or play with right away, they don’t think about how much or how little they got – they’re too busy enjoying their time playing with what they have!
Here are some holiday gift ideas for kids from the winners of Good Housekeeping's 2014 Best Toy Awards.
The Very Best Gift for Your Spouse
Consider not exchanging expensive gifts with your spouse. Buy a game that the whole family can play together, a DVD for family movie night, and some treats that will become part of what you serve when guests or family stop by. (The first thing on my list for my husband is always a box of his favourite chocolates. Thankfully, he's not stingy about sharing!) There likely isn’t anything either of you truly needs, so give yourselves the gift of less debt come January.
A Nod to Tradition - Some Budget-Friendly Ideas
Take this year to start some new traditions and focus on enjoying your time with family and friends. Buying Christmas gifts the whole family can enjoy is another way to save some money and start new traditions! In the hustle and bustle, it’s all too easy to forget that Christmas and the holidays should be about making memories, not piling on mountains of debt.
If You Need More Information About How to Avoid Christmas and Holiday Debt
At this jolly time of year it can be easy to overspend. There are organizations who are happy to help you deal with your debt and get you set up to avoid holiday and Christmas debt next year. Contact one of these non-profit credit counselling organizations for help or more information. Happy Holidays!