The candy canes, adornments and twinkling lights that appear in stores can only mean one thing – have your wallet ready as the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner.
Over 60% of people admitted to feeling pressured to overspend during the holiday shopping season, according to the Bankrate Holiday Gifting 2019 survey.
Mark Foster, Director of Education for Credit Counseling Arkansas, is here to help you with five tips to avoid a hangover while on vacation.
Know how much you can afford to spend
Foster’s number one tip is to create a plan before you walk into the store or tap your favorite shopping app.
Remember, vacation spending isn’t just gifts, but decorations, food, and events as well, he said.
Thinking about it ahead of time, “whether you set a budgeted amount and say, ‘Okay, I can spend anything, a total of $ 500 on Christmas’ or say’ For the rest of the year, I can afford $ 50 per paycheck that I can spend. “Sometimes people find it easier to do it that way,” Foster said.
“I’ll hear people say sometimes, ‘Well I don’t use credit cards‘… What happens is these people can spend their rent money or their money. utilities or money for car payment and they spend it on that fun stuff for freebies … and then later find out ‘Oh my God, how am I going to pay what’s due on Tuesday. ‘”
Using a charge card can also be helpful, as you see the money you spend right away.
“Studies have shown that it is more difficult for us to part with cash (…) than to use a card,” Foster said. Having “something tangible, we have the money in our hands, in our purse, in our wallet… it usually makes people more mindful of their spending.”
However, beware of the temptation to withdraw your card to cover overspending.
A good deal may not be good for your wallet
Hungry for Black Friday, shoppers have already started to hunt for the best deals. When looking for sales and giveaway ideas, remember to keep an eye on your budget.
For example, someone can buy a $ 5,000 TV on sale for $ 2,000, Foster said.
“Was that a good sale? Well, yes, but if you can’t afford the $ 2000, it doesn’t matter if there was a discount… if it was too much and you can only afford a $ 600 TV… c is something that can trip people up. ”
Interest-free, no-payment programs are also a popular way to attract buyers.
“People ask if it’s a good deal, if it’s a bad deal and the answer is yes. It can be both,” Foster said.
“Ask yourself, ‘Can I afford to pay this for the six months, nine months, 12 months, however long they give me to take full advantage of this free interest? ”
If you decide to wait, watch out for retroactive interest. “The way it works… at the end of that period… the company goes back to your purchase date and retroactively hits you with interest for each of those months,” Foster said. “They don’t go out of their way to tell you that. It’s buried in the fine print.”
Beware of overspending for love
Even the best gifts can cause heartache if someone ignores the price.
“A lot of people can’t wait to give gifts, and people have big hearts… we can do too much if we’re not careful and spend more than we can afford,” said Foster.
“It’s easy to overspend for love… but again it comes down to how much can I afford to spend and what can I find within that budget range for the researcher? ”
Layaway options missing? Create your own
In September, Walmart announced that it was removing its annual layaway option this year, which many families used for their holiday gifts.
If you miss this option, Foster suggests creating your own system of “buying the gift cards from this store and saving them for a large purchase.”
When looking to buy a new refrigerator, Foster purchased a series of gift cards from Lowe’s over a period of four to five months.
“Then when I went to buy the refrigerator, instead of having to shell out over $ 800 all at once for the refrigerator, I had these gift cards that totaled what they could have totaled. Say $ 400. After that I just had to find $ 400 for the rest of the fridge. ”
“Now, yes, you have to treat it like money,” he said. “You don’t want to lose your gift cards. Put them in a safe place.”
Rethink your gift ideas
If you can’t afford the latest and greatest device or toy, rethink ways to connect with loved ones through unique gifts.
“Why don’t you pick the movie you want to see and we’ll go eat out, depending on the budget… if it’s too much money, coffee, or dessert,” Foster said. “You give the gift of an experience and spend time with someone… and also, you invest in that relationship with someone, so you get it too.”
One year old, Foster’s wife made a personalized gift for her father with a CD of family photos. The gift showed Foster how much personalized items can do to make a loved one feel special.
“It took a little while to do it, but the cost was around a dollar to burn and create the photo CD that we made here at home,” he said. “That’s a great example of how absolutely priceless that was to him. He’s like a John Wayne guy… but when he looked at all those pictures… he actually had tears in his eyes.”
Set financial goals for the new year
After the holidays, start looking at what goals you’d like to set for 2022.
“It’s a great time to assess your financial situation and where you want to go this year,” Foster said.
To set up a free budgeting or financial counseling appointment with Credit Counseling of Arkansas, call 479-521-8877 or visit www.ccoacares.com.
Appointments can be made in person, online or over the phone. The Credit Counseling of Arkansas Fort Smith office is located at 2301 South 56th Street, Suite 103.
Catherine Nolte is a member of the body of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. She can be contacted at [email protected] Southwest Times Record and Report for America are working to place a new generation of journalists in community news organizations across the country. Are you supporting this effort today?