By Kimberly Yee, Arizona State Treasurer
The holiday shopping season can be a fun time to pick out the perfect gifts for family and friends. This is also the time when checking off your holiday list can really hit the pocketbook. If not monitored, holiday spending can create financial stress. With proper budgeting and financial planning, you can show generosity in gift-giving and avoid falling into debt.
Here are five practical tips to give yourself the gift of financial freedom during the holidays and start the New Year financially secure:
- Have a budget plan and stick to it. Don’t forget the extras like postage, special occasion meals and unexpected expenses. Budget all the gifts you plan to give by jotting down an estimated amount to spend for each person on your list. If you find a gift costs more than you estimated, reconsider buying another item. Planning a budget will keep you from overspending and allows you to stay focused during the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season.
- Use cash to buy gifts, especially if you have credit card debt. Last Christmas, Americans racked up more than $1000 in holiday spending debt on credit cards, store cards and personal loans. A simple principle to live by is, “Never spend more than you make.” Paying with the money you have avoids debt. If you pay off your credit cards monthly, congratulations, and keep it up.
- Shop with a plan and stick to it. Avoid roaming the store, aisle-browsing and making impulse purchases that are not on your list. Stores are strategically designed to make you spend as much as possible by placing their pricier items at eye-level to tempt consumers to pay more. If you enter a store knowing exactly what you need to purchase, make it a goal to get “in and out” and you’ll be more likely to leave with just what you need. If shopping online, comparison shop strategically and remind yourself of the intended purchase.
- Create an incentive to spend “under” budget by treating yourself with the savings. Spending under the budget you created requires self-discipline and sometimes saying “no” to a purchase. Rewarding yourself if you go under your budget is a nice way to keep to your budget plan. This incentive savings plan could treat you to as little as an extra peppermint mocha latte or help you get a jump-start on your financial goals for next year.
- Finally, start 2020 debt-free by setting aside money in a savings account for the new year. The average American has about $38,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages. Starting the new year with savings in the bank will take the burden off your shoulders when financial obligations come your way. Putting a little money away with each paycheck and setting aside funds for unexpected emergencies provides safety and security to start the new year strong.
Holiday spending should not “break the bank.” With simple planning, budgeting and self-control, shopping this time of year should be enjoyable, and you’ll be able to give yourself the gift of financial freedom this holiday season.