Lower holiday stress and spend less
How to Lower Holiday Shopping Stress and Avoid Going in The Red this Season
Too many people tell me they are still paying for Christmas on their credit cards as Easter arrives or longer. In a burst of holiday cheer we can easily fall prey to really effective marketing tactics. Today, I was once again deluged with “deal of day” and “nearly running out of time” texts, tweets, updates and email messages. Plus, catalogs, flyers, and annoying pop-up windows.
What we may not fully expect is the increasing daily “balance due” and the additional service charges on debit and credit cards.
One way to experience a jolt of spending reality is to check your credit card balances online daily. Then remind yourself that if you only pay only the card minimum --instead of paying the total balance in full --each item basically doubles.
The boots on sale for $69.99 will at least double to $140.00.
Here's how to avoid going in the red during any season of the year.
13 smart savings and spending tips
1. Set a Budget and Don't Budge from it. In the shopping frenzy and abundance of last minute sales, your enthusiasm can easily overwhelm your best financial intentions. Don't let it. Just say no.
2. Make A List and Check It Twice. It works for Santa and will for you too. People with written grocery lists spend 20% less than those who don't. Next to each name write the spending limit you've set for that gift. Services, gift cards and home made items are often the most appreciated after all the paper and bows landed in the trash.
3. Build up your coin stash for more cash. 10 years ago, we put a shoe box on a dresser top. We'd read that the daily habit of emptying loose coins from pockets and billfolds could painlessly provide holiday or vacation cash. The first year, we tallied up $700 when all the coins were rolled and counted. Buoyed by our success, in year two, we stopped ignoring the lone penny on the sidewalk. We paused to pick them up and added those to the shoe box, too. We now average $1,200 a year from our cash of coins.
4. Have a plan for paying off your bills. If you overspent again last year, this is the perfect time to do better. A crash spending diet is likely to meet with the same failure rate as a crash diet. Set realistic goals for this holiday. Cut spending by 30% and pay off all balances before Valentine's Day. Meeting this realistic goal will make you feel great about your frugality.
5. Keep tabs on your holiday spending. If you are using credit cards for Christmas shopping, keep a running tally of what you're spending. Holiday spending is like chocolate consumption. You don't realize you've over done it until you start to feel sick to your stomach.
6. Give an important gift and help freedom ring. Operation USO Care Package. Sponsoring a care package and including a personal message provides you with a way to touch the lives of our deployed troops around the world. For every $25 donation, the USO will send a care package with needed and requested items valued at approximately $75 to a deployed service member. www.uso.org
7. Consider eBay. Chances are you'll find something on your shopping list on EBay. You can get things for much less than retail on this website. Before you buy, check the seller's customer rating and return policy before closing the sale. www.ebay.com
8. Use online coupons and promo codes. Most smart major retailers will be offering free shipping, web only sales where you enter their sales code in the order form.
9. Wal-mart.com & Amazon.com. These are the top two online destinations for shopping and savings. Amazon is also tops in customer service. www.walmart.com, www.amazon.com
10. Holiday at home. With cheap flights and budget airlines, it's tempting to holiday away from home. While it may be cheaper to fly than it was, it is still cheaper to spend the holidays close to home, and it need be no less enjoyable. We tend to underestimate the number of things there are to do in our own locality. Plan to be a tourist in your own hometown.
11. The Personal Touch - Make Gifts. Going out and buying someone a gift is fast but expensive. Plus, re-gifting is on the rise. Your hard earned dollars for that impressive status gift may end up being stored in the attic or being re-gifted to someone you'll never meet. Making a personalized gift may take more time and effort but the value to the recipient is - priceless. My favorite gift from recent years was made by my sister and niece. I use it regularly and think about their kindness each time I see it.
12. Start Early. Get the easy items out of the way and pay cash for them. The best day to start shopping for next Christmas is December 26th of this year. Post-Christmas sales have some of the best bargains you will find all year. December 26 is also the perfect date to open an old fashioned Christmas Club account with auto deposit. A $20 weekly deposit will give you over one thousand dollars for next year.
13. Time for the Family. Inviting members of your extended family over for Channukkah, Christmas or New Years may seem like an added and unnecessary expense. However, cooking one large meal, rather than many smaller ones, can make things considerably cheaper if everyone is willing to contribute. It can also be more fun.
Margaret Ross, speaker and writer, grows and encourages people in business and in their lives. Ross is CEO of the Kamaron Institute, a leading management consulting, training, and market research communications firm. Margaret is the editor of Kamaron PI, the Positive Impact blog, host of Telly award winning Success Class and is a regularly featured guest on America’s top radio shows