During the 2020 holiday season, a survey by American Research Group, Inc. found the average American planned on spending roughly $851 on gifts. Despite gift spending being slightly down, throw in the costs of holiday cards, decorating, baking, holiday dinners, and unplanned purchases, and holiday shopping can add up to a heap of change.
Many people are set back financially for months, if not longer, following the holiday season. One big reason for this is that credit cards make it easy to overspend, leaving individuals and families to suffer the consequences later. The problem with credit cards isn’t just the monthly payments. It’s the long-term cost from accrued interest.
So what can you do to ensure you start the new year without new debt?
First, create a holiday budget. Include gifts, food, decorations, and postage for holiday cards, wrapping supplies, and the babysitter for your shopping trip. Then review your list, and decide where you can cut costs.
Gifts to extended family and friends are an excellent place to start. Talk to those you exchange gifts with, and see if they’ll either forego the gift exchange or set a dollar limit. Another option for families or groups is to draw names. This will reduce the number of gifts everyone has to buy. Doing a white elephant gift exchange is also a fun option.
Planning your gift budget based on value rather than the amount to spend on each person is also an excellent way to reduce your holiday expense. Decide in advance on a gift value for each gift recipient.
Then look for great buys. Let’s say you’ve decided on a gift value of $50 for your sister. Now, try to find a gift that’s a $50 value but only costs you $30 or $40. If you have many gifts to buy, this can shave a lot of expense.
Do you usually send out more holiday cards than you receive? If so, opt instead for a phone call during the holiday season. This is particularly meaningful for those you don’t talk to often, and it won’t cost you a thing. Another option is to only mail cards to those who send one to you.
Cut back on the baking. When’s the last time you heard someone complain of a shortage of holiday goodies? Probably never. Most of us eat far more than we’d like to just because it’s there.
If you’re hosting any parties, hold potluck dinners instead of playing head chef. You could offer to provide the meat. Then ask everyone to bring a specific type of dish to avoid duplicates.
Eliminate your babysitting expense by exchanging babysitting with a neighbor — that way, each of you has the opportunity to shop without the kids.
Plan your shopping before you head out. Do online research to find the best deals on the items on your shopping list. If you can’t find a good deal on something, consider an alternative. Also, check newspaper fliers and the ‘coupon’ page of the store websites you plan to shop.
If possible, leave credit cards at home when you go shopping to avoid impulse purchases. Many people spend far more than they intend by purchasing irresistible spur of the moment bargains.
Finally, if you use your credit card, try to make a realistic plan to double or triple your monthly payments. This will reduce your interest expense and quickly eliminate your debt.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance family and lifestyle writer. She’s also founder and director of KB Creative Digital Services, an internet marketing agency, at kbcreativedigital.com.