If you’re like most people, you’ll use credit cards for holiday purchases this year—especially department store cards offering deep discounts throughout the season. But using credit cards too often in November and December can lead to a serious case of buyer’s remorse when bills start showing up in January. The good news is you can avoid holiday credit card debt with four simple strategies.
1. Start saving now!
If you haven’t already, begin putting money aside for gifts, holiday décor items and extra goodies from the supermarket. Saving cash now means you’ll be less likely to use credit cards as a fallback later.
Join the club! Open a Holiday Club Account at The First to help meet the cost of next year’s seasonal purchases.
2. Leave your credit cards at home.
Tuck the plastic away in a safe hiding place so you won’t be tempted to use it. You might even try the old trick of freezing your credit cards so you’ll have a “cool-down” period if temptation does strike. Be warned, however, some of the new chip-enabled cards may not withstand being placed in a plastic bag filled with water and then frozen.
3. Use your debit card, but use it cautiously.
While many debit cards are designed to save you the embarrassment of coming up short at the checkout counter, they’re not necessarily designed to save you money. Depending on your financial institution, overdraft fees can be around $35 per transaction. To avoid these fees, look at your account balance before you go into the store and keep track of the cost of the items in your cart. It also helps to have cash on-hand to cover the gap between what’s on the checkout counter and what’s in your checking account.
4. Give yourself the gift of gift cards.
Not only do gift cards force you to stick to a budget when you shop online, they add an extra layer of security if the sites you use are hacked. Another benefit of gift cards is that you may end up with a few extra ones when you’ve finished your cyber shopping. A leftover gift card can be used as a last minute stocking stuffer or as a thoughtful “thank you” for your letter carrier who works extra hard during the holidays.
The First offers customers Visa Gift Cards with no activation fees. Find out more.
A little planning can save you a lot of money in interest fees, so try going credit card-free during the upcoming holiday season!
Have you ever survived the holidays without using credit cards? Let us know how you did it in the Comments section.