How to holiday shop without going into debt

in Financial Wellness

Is it just me or did this year seem to fly by? It’s crazy to think that Christmas is just a little more than a month away.

If you’re anything like me, I plan to put my tree up just before Thanksgiving because I like to be holly jolly for more than the short 25 days out of the year! I wanted to get the decorations out the day after Halloween, but I’ve learned that’s frowned upon. I absolutely adore this time of year for many reasons; you get to eat endless amounts of delicious food, spend time with family you may not see that often, listen to Christmas music in every store you step into and watch nonstop holiday movies! For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

However, this time of year can be stressful if you make it, and detrimental to your wallet if you’re not careful. Statistics show that each year Americans get deeper and deeper into debt during the holiday season as the years progress. According to MarketWatch, in 2015, the average holiday debt was $986. In 2016, it increased by 1.7 percent at a whopping $1,003! Here’s a little list of tips and tricks I’ve come up with to prevent you from going into the new year with a holiday debt hangover:

Set a budget

By setting a spending limit for each person you’re shopping for, you’ll set a budget that you’ll want to stick to. Having a budget will allow you to shop within the constraints of what you’re able to afford without finding yourself stuck in debt. Stand firm on your budget and don’t let yourself add extras here and there for each person. Something else that you might find helpful is opening a SouthPoint Holiday Club savings account. With a Holiday Club account, you can set aside funds throughout the year for the holidays. As little as $25 per week ads up to more than $1,300 in a year!

Don’t let your credit card limit factor into your decision making process

It’s easy to justify an additional $100 when you have a high credit card limit. But remember, you should try not to use more than 30 percent of your available credit. Just because you have an opportunity to spend up to your limit, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you’re able, try to stick to just using the money you have in your checking account. This will ensure the credit card debt will stay to a minimum.

Make stocking stuffers and small gifts instead of buying them

Making candles, baked goods and other handmade gifts goes a long way. I know the majority of my family and friends actually prefer the homemade gifts over store bought gifts! By making something, it shows how much time, thought and effort you put into that gift. I guarantee they’ll appreciate it more than you think!

Suggest alternatives that will cut down on shopping

Instead of buying gifts for everyone in your family, suggest doing a gift exchange where everyone gives a gift to one person attending the holiday celebration. Our family loves doing a secret Santa gift exchange. Whoever draws your name gets to surprise you with a gift! Only having to buy one gift versus 5-20 gifts not only saves you money but time that could be spent with your family instead.

Practice willpower

Sticking to your budget might be the trickiest part. It’s really about writing down your budget and not letting yourself exceed it.

It’s important to remember that when all is said and done, Christmas isn’t about how much money you spend on each person. It’s about how much time was spent with them and the memories that you make during the holidays. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

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