Americans are projected to spend $737.95 each during the holidays, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation. While holiday spending will boost the U.S. economy, it could drain many consumers’ wallets if they are not careful.
With less than a month to go before Christmas consumers are being bombarded with advertisements and promotions. So now is the time to create a gift list, check it twice and most importantly adhere to a budget, that’s some of the advice from leading experts in personal finance.
Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, author of the best-selling book, “The One Week Budget,” says consumers should make a gift list and determine how much they will spend on each person.
She recommends consumers use cash to prevent over spending.
“Leave the debit and credit cards at home.”
Creative Gift Giving
Group gifts are a creative way to spend less for the holidays. Aliche says family members can chip in money to purchase a bigger gift such as a trip for the parents. Consider pulling names if you are a part of a big family. Being responsible for one gift and staying within a predetermined price limit alleviates the financial pressure of buying for the entire family.
Consumers should think out of the box to be cost-effective. Aliche recommends consumers with enviable culinary skills make baked goods to give to neighbors or to teachers.
Parental Pressure to Play Santa
The pressure on parents can be especially high as children create their gift wish lists for the holidays. Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com, says it is important for parents to discuss money matters throughout the year with their children in order to properly manage holiday expectations.
“If you’ve been fast and loose with money all year long, they will have a greater sense of entitlement and bigger expectations during the holidays,” Khalfani-Cox cautions.
“But if you use prudence all year long, it will rub off on your kids.”
She says it is up to individual households to determine the family’s priorities, which could include funding education, retirement, or travel.
Khalfani-Cox advises consumers avoid trying to play ‘Big Papa’ or ‘Big Santa’. She stresses there is no need make grandiose statements by spending on luxury items for loved ones.
“Your relatives will be just as happy to have your presence versus presents,” she says.
Shopping online with a credit card, spending cash in a store, using a debit card at the mall, or putting items on layaway are just some of the ways consumers spend. The biggest mistake people make during the holidays is not keeping tabs of their various methods of spending, says Khalfani-Cox.
Although cash is the preferred method for spending during the holidays, she concedes this may not be an option for everyone and recommends taking a practical approach to using credit.
“Be smart about your payment plan and payoff plan.”
If you use credit, use a reward credit card and make sure to use the card with the lowest interest rate, preferably with a zero percent interest rate.
“You don’t want what you spent in 2013 to follow you in 2014,” says Khalfani-Cox.