Washington D.C. – There are only about 160 shopping days left until the winter holidays are here. While that may be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind, for consumers who don’t want to face a new year with holiday debt now is the time to get started.
“A great deal of money is spent in just a few short weeks during the holiday season,” said Kevin Weeks, president, Financial Counseling Association of America. “Even though it may seem silly, if consumers start now - either by doing some early shopping or by saving in earnest for the holidays - they will be able to spread that cost over a longer period of time and not have to rely on credit to finance their holidays.”
FCAA offers the following tips:
- Get a spending plan. Having more time to shop and plan doesn’t mean you have or even want to spend more money this year. Look at what you spent last year and figure out your total holiday shopping budget before you take the next step.
- Open a holiday savings account. Now that you have a plan, start saving. The advantage to a separate account for holiday spending is that you will know exactly where you are in relation to how much you need based on your spending plan. Decide on a dollar amount that you can live with that will enable you to put that amount away every paycheck and watch it grow over the next few months.
- Make a list. Decide whom you will buy for and how much money you will spend on each person. For those that are really hard to buy for, consider a gift card from a store or restaurant that you know they like. Wait to purchase gift cards until closer to the holidays with the money you’ve been saving in your special account. This will maximize the interest you earn on the account.
- Cash and carry. This is where shopping early can really pay off. Resolve to pay by cash, check or debit card when possible. If you do charge, be sure you will be able to pay the credit card bill in full when it arrives.
- Keep your list handy. You may find just the right gift for someone on your list when you are on vacation or a business trip this summer. If you always have your list with you, you’ll be able to mark off those that you find.
- Surf the Internet. Shopping online will save you the time and expense of driving to stores. Look for sites that offer free shipping and be sure to check out online-only specials.
- Consider homemade and second-hand gifts. A gently used item is a perfectly acceptable gift, especially if it is a hard-to-find or unique item that someone on your list will enjoy. And while it is a little early to start baking, you can start to work on handcrafted items.
If you need help planning for the holidays, FCAA counselors are available nationwide with free budgeting advice. Visit FCAA.org to find a member office.