When January rolls around, will you be suffering from the guilt of a Christmas debt hangover? These tips should help prevent a holiday financial catastrophe:
- Reduce your gift exchange list. Do you really need to purchase gifts for your 3 aunts, 2 uncles, 10 cousins and everyone who lives on your dorm floor? Probably not. Just be honest with your friends and family and exchange greeting cards instead.
- Budget, budget, budget: Make a list of who you really must purchase gifts for, set a dollar limit and stick to your budget. After you make your list, refer to Rule #1.
- Don't use credit cards to purchase gifts. Unless you are the type of person who is extremely disciplined and pays off the credit card bill each month, avoid the temptation to delay paying for the purchase. If you do purchase a Christmas gift on a credit card, refer to Rule #1.
- Shop online instead of at the mall. Shopping at a mall can often lead to those impulse purchases that you end up regretting later. Take the time to research your purchase carefully. If you shop online, only use a well-established website such as Amazon.com.
- Host a holiday pot luck instead of exchanging gifts. Christmas memories of pleasant times with friends and family will last longer than a forgotten trinket.
- Buy smarter. Clip coupons, search the Internet for bargains and watch your Sunday paper for holiday sales. Consider using a website such as Ebates or Bargains, which offer discounts and coupons.
- Start buying now. If you purchase your gifts early and a few at a time, you'll be under less pressure closer to Christmas and less likely to overpay for an impulse purchase.
- Avoid Starbucks. Instead of spending money on a $5 latte, save that money for Christmas gifts. You would be surprised how quickly the cost of self-indulgence adds up.
- Buy gift cards. You typically spend less on a gift card than a present and the recipient can choose some-thing they want.
- Avoid the extras. Christmas is the time of year for "extras"...that one little extra decoration, the stocking stuffers, the last minute gift that seems so perfect. Refer to Rule #1 and Rule #2 and don't give in to the impulse.
- True friends and family don't want you be stressed or overcome by holiday debt. Spend wisely and without guilt.