Avoid Extra Debt and Regrets This Season

December is well and truly underway now. Is the idea of your To Do list filling you with dread? We all want the holidays to be magical, full of wonder and joyful splendor. Whatever you may celebrate this time of year, you likely have a vision for how it will look.

Many people are already feeling the financial strain of the past few years in one way or another. According to a recent article in US News and World Report, nearly 42% of Americans expect to go into debt for the holidays. Several sources show us that getting into debt during the holidays is all too common in the US, including an article by Lending Tree late last year that showed 36% of Americans went into debt last year for the holidays, with an average of over $1200 spent.

That doesn’t have the be the case for you and your family. Need some ideas to avoid racking up too much debt and sticking to a budget this holiday season? Here are some tips and tricks that could help you get through the holidays with fewer regrets and less debt.

Prioritize and Pair Down Your List

The first thing you want to do is prioritize and figure out what is most important to you this year. Look at what you absolutely must accomplish this holiday season to feel like you have done it justice. Often, we as adults put too much pressure on ourselves and can end up spending time, energy, and yes, money— on the wrong things.

  • Look at what your budget allows for and start there
  • Review your plans for traveling, hosting, gift buying, and extra holiday groceries
  • Do you have savings that you can allocate toward gifts?
  • Are there items you have purchased already this year and tucked away for a holiday gift? If so, FIND them and be sure to know where they are!

Have a Plan and Accountability Partner

Reduce extra spending when you refrain from impulse buying. This is easier when you have a plan before you shop.

  • Look at the ads and create a plan
  • Consider buying/supporting local, including business owners you know, small family businesses, and local shops. Chances are you will feel better about these kinds of purchases rather than supporting some mega corporation’s bottom line
  • Ask your spouse/partner/friend to help you stay on track and to help hold you accountable to your established plan
  • When you shop online or in-store, begin with the clearance section
  • If you are considering a large purchase, do your research first. Find out about customer reviews, return policies, what is a good sale price, and so on
  • Shop sales with steep discounts and special offers, such as “Buy 2, get the third free” to help check off gifts on your list
  • Gift Certificates that offer you a freebie for quantity can be a good way to get more gifts for less

Consider Service and Create More Memories

Acts of service typically do not cost anything and go a long way to show love this holiday season.

  • You can decide as a family that instead of spending money buying gifts for one another that you will do a service project and or donate to a local charity
  • There are many handmade gifts you can give that can be made while spending time being creative with your children/ family. This can also teach children about the value of time and effort on someone’s behalf, and that money isn’t always necessary to show love. Indeed, spending time and care on making homemade goodies and handmade gifts is often more valued by others

Minimize for More Peace of Mind

You don’t have to get a gift for everyone you know, nor do you have to get tons of gifts for the kids.

  • A note or a handwritten card of thanks, appreciation or sentiment is rarer all the time nowadays and often much appreciated
  • It’s OK to do with less this year. Some argue it’s easier to enjoy what you have when gifts aren’t so gratuitous. A popular movement in recent years is for parents to give their children four gifts of a specific type. Consider the 4 Gift Rule for kids or grandkids, also known as Want, Need, Wear, Read:
  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read

Make Extra Cash

Adding some funds to your wallet can help you avoid going into debt. Consider getting a part-time job for the season.

  • Besides many employers looking for additional help for this season, there are options like Door Dash, Uber and Lyft where you can make some extra dough
  • Clear out clutter and make some cash by getting rid of unwanted items you already own on popular sites like Let Go or Offer Up, or even Facebook Marketplace, to give yourself some additional cash to spend
  • You can also go through your family’s gently used clothing and take them into a nearby consignment shop where you can get money for things that are in good condition

Being More Careful with Credit

If you must go into debt, try to be as strategic as possible about it.

  • Using credit cards that have a cashback reward can help to offset the money you spend
  • Use the lowest interest cards first
  • Try to use cards that have zero-interest features that will allow you time to pay off what debt you incur
  • Consider consolidating high-interest credit cards into a zero-interest APR offer

If your debt has gotten out of hand and is causing too much stress and hardship, there are organizations that can assist you. Seek help if needed, at places such as consumercredit.com or credit.org.

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