The shopping season is here, whether that means hitting the malls or flexing your fingers for some online shopping. Regardless of how you prefer to buy gifts for your loved ones, be warned—it’s also the time of year where it’s easy to fall into debt.
Of course, we all want to get gifts for our friends and family that are special and meaningful, but that doesn’t always mean they have to be pricy. Forget about the “go big or go home” mentality and follow these tips for a financially healthier holiday season.
Start shopping early.
This means, whether it’s January or February and you see something you know your loved one would just adore, buy it and gift it when the holidays roll around. By not waiting until December to do all your holiday shopping, you’ll find that your wallet has time to catch up and the economic impact is much lighter.
Budget for the holidays every month of the year.
You read that right. By creating an account for the holidays and putting a small amount away each month, you’ll find holiday shopping less financially stressful and gifting more meaningful.
Use cash when you can.
Instead of charging more than you can actually pay to a credit card—and inevitably increasing your chances of a new year in debt—purchase gifts with cash or a debit card so you’re not spending what you don’t have.
Prioritize the debt you already have.
This may be a hard one during the holidays, but if you already have credit card debt, adding to it is not going to help you or your family and friends. By making sure to keep paying regularly on loans and budgeting for gifts, you’ll be in a healthier place come January.
Make a list (and check it twice).
What do you do if you have 10 friends you know you need to buy for, plus your family? Write it down. And then write down the gift you plan on buying each one. By doing this, you won’t forget anyone and end up on a last-minute shopping binge, and you’ll also be better able to budget the season.
Shop on secure websites.
Online shopping is the preferred method of shopping for many people nowadays, so make sure you don’t give your credit card to just any website. Before adding to your cart, double-check that it’s a secure website.
Determine your spending budget beyond gifts.
With the holidays and the gifts also come the parties, traveling expenses, holiday cards, postage, and food—lots of food. Make sure to include these when you’re budgeting your holiday spending.
If you’re working on a limited budget, try making a gift or finding something memorable that doesn’t cost too much. The gifting season isn’t about giving the priciest gifts, it’s about creating memories.
Don’t discount a debt management plan.
Whether your debt stems from the holidays or other reasons, if it becomes overwhelming you might want to consider enrolling in a debt management plan. If you qualify, a credit counselor will work with your lenders to consolidate your credit cards and reduce your monthly payment so that it’s affordable, lower your interest rates, and give you the means to pay off your debt in three to five years.
The holidays are meant to be a time spent with family and friends that’s enjoyable and memorable, and by following the above advice you’ll reduce financial anxiety so you can truly enjoy what it’s all about.