Avoid the post-holiday blues by measuring your spending
Don't let the holidays put you into debt.
Many shoppers will spend the month of January singing the post-holiday blues because they failed to put the breaks on their holiday spending spree. Many people seek help setting up a budget after the damage has already been done. How much better it would be the start the new year off without being in financial straits.
It can be done. The best approach to control holiday spending is to budget your money carefully. Here are some spending tips to keep in mind during the holiday season:
1. Make a list and set a price limit for each person. Set an appropriate price limit for each person on your gift list and stick to it. It is a good idea to ask the recipient what gift they'd like. If you browse without a list, you're more likely to purchase additional items on impulse or spend more than intended.
Rather than purchasing a gift for each family member or co-worker, you could opt to draw names. Set a price limit for each gift.
Another option would be to have a group of 10 people (or whatever number is appropriate for you) to each purchase a $25 gift and place it under the tree. Each person would draw a number from one to ten. The first person would choose a gift and open it. The second person would either choose a gift from under the tree or take the gift opened by the first person — and so on. The last person would get to choose between opening the last gift or choosing any one of the gifts already opened. This option is cost effective and lots of fun.
2. Use cash, check or debit card. By using these methods of payment, you can avoid the dread of opening those credit card statements in January. If you must purchase on credit, use only one card and decide how much you can afford to pay off in January. Charge that much and no more. Be sure to pay the balance in full when you get the credit card bill.
Don't allow yourself to be drawn into the deferred payment plans. Some consumers forget they even made the purchases and are stuck with a sizeable bill they can't pay off three or six months down the road.
3. Make a gift. If you're gifted at baking or crafts, you might want to consider making a gift. You'll need to know the recipient well enough to know whether they can appreciate the gift. You don't want to bake a batch of cookies for someone who doesn't have the sweet tooth that you do.
You can come up with some great gift-making ideas from Barbara Smith by tuning into her television broadcast, b smith with style or visiting the website at www.bsmithwithstyle.com. Creative gift giving can save you money and be most gratifying to the recipient.
4. Start shopping early. When you procrastinate, you pay the price. Last-minute shoppers don't have the luxury of comparing prices or bargain shopping. Also, the selections are not as good for late shoppers. You might even be forced to pay premium prices should you need to ship packages at the overnight rates rather than the standard shipping rates.
5. Save your receipts. Hold onto your receipts for at least 30 days. No matter how well you planned your holiday shopping, there could be items that need to be returned or exchanged.
If an item has been marked down since you purchased it, most stores will only allow the markdown price without a receipt. You wouldn't want to end up getting a $50 credit for an item you purchased for $100.
6. Plan ahead for next year. Start thinking about the holiday season months in advance. Set aside a savings account for holiday shopping early in the upcoming year. Purchase gifts throughout the year as you're able to catch bargains. You'll be able to find some terrific deals during the off season.
7. Don't let the blues get you down. Many psychologists will tell you that the holidays is their highest season for treating patients with depression. Unfortunately for many people, spending is the medication they use to fight the depression blues. Remind yourself that spending won't solve your problem, but only prolong the agony. Remember the true reason for the season.