Don’t Overspend this Holiday Season

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It’s hard to be festive when you have big credit card bills or student loans looming over your head. Family parties, teacher’s gifts and long shopping lists can result in huge bills.  Christmas gives us lots of excuses to justify excessive spending: that 60-inch TV that’s on sale or your daily peppermint mocha.  On top of all of this, end of year expenses like taxes come rolling in right as the Christmas expenses are racking up.

According to recent polls, the average American will spend $850 on gifts this season. And that is just an average.  Many spend much more without even realizing it. Here are some common problems, and how to get ahead this Christmas and next year.

Mistake #1 – Waiting until the last minute. Sprinting around the procrastinators panic will only cost you more, and you could spend double what you planned to.  Plus, you will be adding much more stress and frustration which is not good for your health. Start early, make a plan, and avoid the holiday rush.

Mistake #2 – Decoration overkill. Does your tree look like it belongs on the Las Vegas strip instead of in your living room?  If you’re not careful, you can spend your entire Christmas budget on decorations before you buy even one gift. Keep it simple!  No need for a new, taller tree or elaborately themed ornaments.  Handmade ornaments from the kids or grandkids are much more special and meaningful, anyway!

Mistake #3 – NOT searching for coupon codes.  Online shopping is great, but look for coupon codes before clicking “buy”. Type in things like “coupon code” or “promo code” into the search engine. There are many helpful sites like bargainist.com and retailmenot.com that offer discounts and free shipping.

Mistake #4 – Buying all of your presents.  Homemade gift such as delicious cookies or a craft is much more special than something you can purchase at a shopping mall.

Mistake #5 – Overlooking entertainment cost.  If you are throwing the annual block party in your neighborhood, stock up on the basics early. Watch for sales that you can store in your pantry or freezer such as canned pumpkin, frozen rolls or pies.  Consider borrowing holiday serving pieces from a neighbor – no need to buy all new pieces for one party when you have a wealth of resources right around you!

Mistake #6 – Forgoing a list or budget.  Heading to the shopping mall without a list or budget tempts overspending. It is too easy to get enticed by those impulse buys.  Ask yourself if they really need this?  Set a maximum dollar amount for each person and stick to it.

If you are looking to save money this year, relieve yourself of the pressure of having to spend the MOST and look the BEST.  Gift-giving is about thoughtfulness, not about the monetary value.  The Holidays are about spending time with family, no matter how perfect your decorations look.  Time with friends and family doesn’t have to cost a thing, so remember that this season.  Don’t carry over the regret of overspending into the New Year!

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