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Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, UF/IFAS Extension

Did you know that consumers will collectively spend more in the last five weeks of the year on gifts than was spent the first 47? According to the finance blog Mint.com we do and many of us feel the sting of holiday spending well into the new year.  If you love the holidays but don’t love the financial pinch you experience afterward, consider these simple tips to keep your holiday spending in check.

1. Know your spending limit. Plan out your holiday budget before you head to the stores or your computer for on-line shopping. Holiday expenses can really add up, leaving you with a hefty bill at the end of the season. Use the holiday spending work sheet at Bankrate.com (http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/savings/holiday-spending-calculator.aspx) to help you budget for all your holiday spending. Ideally it’s best to create a holiday budget at the beginning of the year and set aside money every paycheck or month to help you avoid overspending, unwanted debt and financial stress during the holidays.

2. Look for ways to save.  Catch early sales. Comparison shop. Order from sites or stores that offer free shipping. Shop at discount stores. Buy items that offer rebates. Use your credit card reward points.  All these ideas can help you save money on holiday purchases.

3. Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending. If you need to use credit, use just one card and make it the one with the lowest interest rate. Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time. Always review your statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.

4. Shorten your gift list. Do you really need to buy a gift for every friend or relative? Consider setting up an exchange with family or friends so that each person buys one gift with a set dollar limit.  Suggest giving a group gift to certain members of your family rather than individual gifts.

5. Save your receipts. Not only will you need them for possible returns, these receipts will help you track what you’ve spent. Knowing how much you spend will help you plan for next year, too.

6. Celebrate the season. Remember that the holidays are all about enjoying friends and family. Focusing on time with loved ones and other joys of the season can help you keep spending and stress in perspective and prevent a holiday spending hangover.

For more information on financial topics visit http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/families_and_consumers/money_matters/

 

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