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Holiday Spending—Keep It in Check  
Learn some tips on keeping the credit down and the holiday spirit up.


Holiday Spending
Keep It in Check

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Gerber Life Family Times Archive

FinancialIt seems as if the Halloween decorations barely made it off the shelves before the snowmen, strings of blinking lights, candles, elves, and advertising campaigns began for the all-important holiday shopping extravaganza. From "Black Friday" sales and online buying to the "I said I would never again wait this long" last-minute shopping spree, we'll all test our household budgets as we look for those perfect holiday gifts for friends and family.

With all the searching, debating, and—more often than not—frustration, we sometimes lose track of our spending goals for the sake of "just getting it done." Everything seems all well and good in the weeks and days leading up to the holidays and into the New Year. But, lo and behold, lurking in the mailbox one dreary, cold January day you'll find your credit card statements with the equally cold reminder of just what you spent to "make the season bright." Not a wonderful way to start off a brand new year!

In the best of all possible worlds, you may have started an interest-bearing holiday savings account at your bank or credit union last year. If so, you now have a tidy amount of money dedicated to your holiday shopping needs. If you didn't start such an account, now is the time to start one for next year. That small amount of money out of your budget each week is nearly painless and the reward of having a lump sum of money available for next year's holiday shopping is worth the effort.

FinancialIf you're like many people, you'll be funding your holiday spending from your household budget or by using credit. The use of credit cards for holiday purchases is a sure way to spend more than you ever intended due to the ease and painless nature of just "swiping the card." Before you know it, you've spent more on each person and expanded your gift list significantly. This year, before you venture out to fight the holiday crowds, sit down and evaluate your household budget to determine a comfortable budget for your holiday shopping needs. Be sure to allow for your regular household bills, and any special holiday expenses such as holiday travel or the holiday meal. If you'd like to keep your spending under control this holiday season, the Louisiana State University Extension Office offers the following tips for holiday money management:

  • Create a written list of your holiday gift recipients. Include a list of possible gifts, dollar amounts, and alternative gift choices.
  • Set a spending limit for each person on your list. If you spend more than planned, deduct the amount from the others on your list.
  • Start looking for bargains early in the shopping season.
  • Ask retailers when items you are interested in are going to be on sale. Many retailers will tell you sale dates to avoid losing your business to competitors.
  • Do preliminary "shopping trips" where the sole purpose is to comparison shop for the best prices and see what options are available. Resist taking cash, credit cards, or your checkbook on the shopping trip. Then take a "spending trip" where you actually purchase the items on your list.
  • Make your purchases with cash and avoid using credit cards. Credit cards promote impulsive spending and many credit card users have no idea how much they have spent until the credit card bills arrive in January.
  • If your budget is extremely tight this year, talk with those you exchange gifts with and forego exchanging gifts this year or agree to observe lower dollar limits on gifts.
  • If you give money to younger children, consider giving U. S. Savings Bonds. They cost one-half of the face value and encourage children to save for the future.
  • Always keep your holiday budget in mind and shop early and carefully to get the best selection and price.

Additionally, if you are part of a group that exchanges gifts (such as co-workers), opt to draw names as part of a "jingle." Instead of buying twelve, $10 gifts, you'll be able to buy one gift of perhaps $30 or $40. And never underestimate the power of homemade gifts. Cookies, cakes, or a variety of homemade fudge packaged in an inexpensive holiday tin or container make wonderful gift options for co-workers and other acquaintances. And the University of Wisconsin Extension Office adds that instead of buying individual gifts for members of families, assemble a gift basket with a theme such as "movie night" with a box of popcorn, a DVD, movie tickets, etc.

If you choose to use credit cards for your holiday shopping, only carry one card. By limiting your purchases to one single card, you'll be better able to keep track of how much has been spent (since the total won't be spread across numerous cards).

It's a wonderful time of year and reducing the stress and worry associated with holiday spending can help make it a more joyous time for your entire family. By establishing and adhering to a realistic holiday budget and engaging in some creative, low-cost gift ideas, you'll be able to share the holiday spirit with those you care about without fear of opening your credit card bills in January!

Louisiana State University Extension Office—
Iowa State University Extension Office—
University of Wisconsin Extension Office—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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