It’s that time of year when your wallet starts to feel lighter and the accruing debt on your shoulders, heavier. That’s right, it’s the holidays and the shopping season is upon us. While finding the perfect gift for your loved ones is half of the fun, ringing in the new year with holiday debt is no way to start off the year.
To dodge the pitfalls of the season, avoid these five shopping mistakes:
1. Don’t wait until the last minute to start shopping.
By starting off your shopping season earlier in the year, you can avoid the brunt it will put on your bank account. Store items away throughout the year and come the holidays you’ll find shopping season a less stressful season.
2. Neglecting to budget for the gifting season in your budget is not recommended.
Start the new year off right and begin your holiday budget in January. By stockpiling a small amount of money each month, you’ll have a nest egg to spend when you find the perfect gift.
3. Sign up for store credit cards.
While it might seem like a good idea at the time, just say “no thank you.” Opening store credit cards can impact your credit score. It raises your credit usage and the hard inquiry to your credit when you open a new card can make your score take a hit. Store cards are also notorious for high-interest rates and APRs.
4. Put more on the plastic than you can afford.
The best way to combat spending more than you can pay back? Use cash or a debit card. By budgeting for gifts, you can avoid putting too much burden (and debt) on your credit card.
5. Put off paying on your debt.
Just because it’s the holidays it doesn’t mean you have a free pass to spend without consequence. And by ignoring the debt you already have, you’re sure to wind up with even more than you started with. You can help avoid this by making sure to keep your current debt payments a priority.
Gifting shouldn’t be about price tags, so if it’s not in the budget, don’t feel bad. What else can you do?
- Shop sales for savings.
- DIY projects make for memorable gifts.
- Make a list of everyone you want to buy for and every gift you plan to buy, including spending limits for each person.
- Don’t forget that holiday expenses also include party planning, holiday cards and postage, travel expenses, and decor.
If you’re already swimming in debt, it might be time to talk to a credit counselor and enroll in a debt management program, where a counselor can work with your lenders to consolidate your credit card and reduce your monthly payment. By planning for the worst, you’ll find you’ll be at your best when the holiday season rolls around.