With the holidays rapidly approaching, it’s important for consumers to develop a holiday spending plan to avoid financial headaches in the future.
Below are seven spending habits Americans should consider to help relieve the financial stress of the holidays:
- Plan ahead. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget for holiday expenses. Figure out your bottom-line number and set aside holiday cash in increments throughout the year. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.
- Keep track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions. Keep in mind the end of the year is a time when large annual or semi-annual costs like car insurance, life insurance and property taxes arise.
- Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each. If you’re donating to charities, factor in the total amount you plan to donate and how much each charity will receive.
- Shop early and space out purchases. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.
- Avoid impulsive spending decisions. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course. Stay strong and stick to your budget. Don’t be blinded by limited-time incentives geared toward getting you to spend more.
- Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you must use credit, use only one card—preferably the one with the lowest interest rate—and leave the rest at home. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.
- Save your receipts and get acknowledgements for charitable donations. Not only will you need receipts for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement. Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too. Keeping receipts or acknowledgement letters for charitable donations is a must if you want to receive tax deductions in the spring.