It’s hard to believe that, while the calendar says August, now is the perfect time to start getting ready for the holidays.
By making a plan, watching for sales and adjusting your budget, you can make this holiday one that will be easier on your pocketbook.
The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA) offers five suggestions for avoiding holiday debt:
- Determine the amount of money you can spend. Whether you are planning to go ahead and begin shopping now or want to open a holiday saving account, you will need to decide upon the funds available for use. Plan to pay for all purchases, or put money away, with cash on hand. Avoid charging unless you can pay the balance due in 90 days or less.
- Make a list and check it twice! You’ll need to record every person you plan to shop for and assign a dollar amount to their gift. Check your list against the amount you decided you could spend to be sure they line up. Make any necessary adjustments before you start shopping.
- Keep your eyes out for bargains. Take advantage of any summertime trips to look for unique or unusual gifts for those on your list. Be sure to make a note of purchases and mark that person off your list.
- Go online. Even if travel is not in your summer plans, you still have options. Ordering online now will enable you to avoid costly shipping fees. Many online retailers offer free standard shipping and have some great summer deals. You won’t get your items overnight, but you have the time to spare right now.
- Get crafty. Summer is a great time for crafts, for both children and adults. Put little hands to work on gifts for family members on a rainy day. Get started on your own craft projects now and you can cut down on last minute stitching, or other craft-related chores, come the holidays.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offers five helpful tips (and potential dollars saved) to create a debt-free holiday:
1. Before trimming the tree, trim everyday spending. Review current spending looking for leaks. Plug those leaks and use the found money for holiday spending. Amount saved by December 25 at $1 per day: $150.
2. Adjust your W-4 to accurately reflect the amount of taxes owed. The average income tax refund in recent years has been close to $3,000, but Uncle Sam returns that money in April, long after the holiday bills should have been paid. Amount saved by December 25 at $250 per month: $1,250.
3. Commit to shaving $10 off of 10 spending categories. Some obligations such as rent, mortgage and car payments are fixed. However, there are other categories that offer a great deal of flexibility. Cut back $10 each month on categories such as food, clothing, gas, utilities, and entertainment without feeling deprived. Amount saved by December 25 at $100 per month: $500.
4. Sell unused items. Since others are also shopping, this is the perfect time of year to sell items that haven’t been used in the past year. Amount saved by December 25: $100.
5. Open a separate holiday savings account. Don’t mingle the holiday money with existing savings or checking accounts, as it could easily get spent on other items. Amount saved by December 25: $1,000.
By taking some time to organize yourself now for the upcoming holiday, you’ll make the most wonderful time of the year merry and bright!