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Holiday spending

Holidays are definitely the time for giving and spending. And for many, holidays are also a season for taking on too much debt. It doesn't need to be that way if you develop a game plan ahead of time.

Start by setting a holiday spending target. Staying under target will help relieve the stress of being broke after the holidays. Here are some ideas to use:

  • Make a budget of how much you want to spend and who you want to spend on. Have family conversations about limiting the number of gifts or limiting their cost.
  • Use cash as much as possible. Limit the use of credit cards since they make it very easy to spend more than planned. Some stores have brought back layaway plans. Layaway helps you get the gift when you see the sale and then spread out the payments over a certain period. You must pay in full before you can pick up the item.
  • Watch for sales and coupons for gifts and holiday decorations and food items. Many free shopping apps can assist in getting the latest deals. Check your phone’s app store for Flipp and RetailMeNot to help you find deals at the stores you shop.
  • Challenge stores to price match when you can.
  • Buy items early when you see them on sale if your spending plan allows. Or take advantage of year-end sales for gift purchases that can wait until after the holiday. This may be particularly helpful for saving money on big ticket items.
  • Homemade gifts are a great way to personalize a gift without breaking your budget.
  • Give a gift to an entire family or group instead of each individual. This option may save money as well as time searching out gifts for each person.
  • Gift cards can also be a welcome gift, but try to give cards for retailers that the receiver frequents. For more information on gift cards, listen to this audio clip: Gift cards are big business.

There are many ideas for smarter spending, or not spending, at holiday time. Find the ways that make sense for you and avoid paying holiday expenses months after the event.

Lori A. Hendrickson, Extension educator in family resiliency

December 2015. Revised December 2016 by author.

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