How to Keep the Holiday Season Debt Free

| November 27, 2012
the sexy santa assistants were there to take a...

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Black Friday deals are in overdrive this year. They have been going on for the last few days, trying to coax you out of your money. This pressure to spend is putting many people to go into debt this holiday season. Now retailers don’t even have to get you into the store. They now have the technology that allows you to make purchases from your computer, pad, or phone. Sellers and retail associations expect a banner year this holiday season and we as consumers are going to make that happen.

This mad shopping fever will just add to your credit card balance and keep you making payments well into the next holiday season. The following are some tips to help you control spending and also your debt.


Make a list of who you’re shopping for, what items you hope to find and how much you intend to spend on each person. Stick to it! Your plan should call for you to start your shopping online, at least to compare prices and look for deals before you head for the stores. Avoid impulse purchases. And don’t wait until the last-minute to start shopping; it’s a sure prescription to spend more.


Keep the use of credit to a minimum. If you must use it, put your charges on one credit card — the one with the lowest rate if you carry a balance. Remove all other cards from your purse or wallet. Don’t apply for store cards just to snag one-time discounts. The ideal approach it to not charge a single item unless you can repay in full when your next bill arrives. At least set a target date to zero out the balance before you run one up.


In addition to rewards and bonus deals, issuers are tempting consumers by offering incentives such as no-interest balance transfers, extra perks by meeting certain spending levels and increased cash back in specified categories. Resist the bait. Companies know that many won’t; that’s the reason total consumer credit card debt is close to $600 billion.


Take advantage of the resurgence of holiday layaway programs. Retailers from Kmart and Sears to Toys R Us and Wal-Mart have lowered or waived fees this year that shoppers pay to participate in these interest-free, pay-over-time programs. With stores eager not to lose customers to the competition, debt-conscious consumers can snag gifts at attractive prices while not having to pay an extra fee just to avoid buying with their credit cards.


Find it difficult to stick to a holiday spending budget? Give gift cards and make something personal to go with them. Or give experiences instead of “stuff” — perhaps a shared hike, nature outing or special home-cooked meal. Or volunteer together at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or nursing home if your gift recipient doesn’t want more material items.  The gifts people remember the most, as she points, are often free.

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Category: Saving Money

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