Most of us can’t imagine holiday shopping without plastic, but with a little planning, you can make the season merry without going into major credit card debt.
Do the math.
Add up your anticipated earnings between now and the day you plan to give gifts. Next, subtract all your regular expenses such as housing, utilities and groceries. Include a buffer of cash for emergencies (because cars and appliances instinctively break down when they sense extra money in your wallet). Subtract your expenses from your earnings, and you have your holiday budget.
Make a list (or two).
People tend to allocate money for gifts without considering all the holiday trimmings. The amount we spend on food and home décor goes way up during the yuletide season, so plan for those expenses, too. Write out your holiday menu shopping list and buy non-perishables during those awesome Thanksgiving grocery sales. Check your supermarket’s weekly ads for other great buys such as premium coffees, teas and sweets for gift baskets and stockings.
For your gift list, write down a few items AND their prices beside each recipient’s name. Add up the prices and make sure the total fits your pre-determined budget. If not, substitute more reasonably priced gifts your friends and family will still enjoy. Try writing down each person’s likes, wants, needs, hobbies, and interests for inspiration.
Check it twice.
Are there people who can be retired from your holiday shopping list? That 25-year-old nephew may have spent years on your roster, but he doesn’t have to be (or expect to be) a permanent fixture. Also, make sure the list reflects what your family and friends really want rather than what’s on sale. Your local electronics store may have smokin’ hot deals on tablets, but if you already have three of them at home, putting another one under the tree doesn’t make sense.
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Let the bargains come to you.
Set up a special email account dedicated to receiving sale alerts and coupons from your favorite sporting goods, big box, clothing, electronics, and grocery stores or download their mobile coupon apps. Most stores let you show the coupon on your smart phone at checkout, so there’s no printing or clipping required.
Does plastic ever have a place in the plan?
Admittedly, many retailers offer unbeatable deals on purchases using their store’s credit card. If you just can’t resist, resolve to pay the bill online as soon as it’s posted so you’ll notice the money exiting your budget. Otherwise, leave the card in your wallet and make room for the money you’ll save on interest.
Have you ever made it through the holidays without using a credit card? Give us the details in the Comments below.