Aah, the holidays. A chance to spend time with family, friends and coworkers. But if you get too wrapped up in the Christmas consumerism, it can also lead to quality time with the debt collector. Below, financial advisor Bob Brooks shares his tips on how to avoid digging yourself into a hole this holiday season so the joy doesn’t come to a screeching halt when the bills roll in.
1. Set a certain amount for each person’s gift and stick to it. Don't exceed your total budget. (Bonus: You could also use this opportunity to teach your children about financial responsibility.)
2. Pay cash when possible and only charge what you can pay off in full at the end of the month.
3. Don't fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you're getting a great deal when you're really not. Buy now, pay later? Yeah, what’s the catch?
4. Do your research. Make sure you’re getting the lowest price for each item by shopping around in different stores.
5. Actually, go online before you step out the door. There are special Internet prices offered by many big-name stores.
6. Consider something more sentimental that you can make instead of expensive gadgets. Are you an awesome knitter or baker? Now’s the time to show off those skills.
7. Explain to children and relatives that this will be a lean holiday season. This will keep expectations and disappointments to a minimum come Noche Buena.
8. Do other things over the holidays that take the focus off spending. Go ice skating or volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Remember, those memories will last long after the batteries are dead.
And get a leg up on next year! Hit the stores right after the holidays are through to take advantage of discounts on cards and wrapping paper. If you start saving up ahead of time for holiday purchases, you’ll have a little more to work with in 2012 minus the stress and hustle.