Making the holidays merry and bright without going into debt or wrecking your credit score can feel like an abominable task for many people this time of year. Holiday money management can feel overwhelming, especially for those who might already feel stretched too thin financially. Here are some ideas to help with holiday money management and debt prevention:
Set a Budget and Stick to it: Make a list of all the people you’re planning to buy for and assign a dollar amount to each person. Remember to include small items such as stocking stuffers, gifts for teachers, mail carriers, hair stylists and more so those things don’t sneak up mid-December and wreck your budget.
Research and Compare Prices: For big-ticket items on your list, check Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Look for coupons and specials on retailers’ websites. Sign up for emails so you’re among the first to know about holiday savings and deals.
Shop Online: Take advantage of online deals on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) or Free Shipping Day (December 14). Also, use coupon and deal-oriented sites such as www.retailmenot.com and www.edealinfo.com as well as sites that reward you for shopping with certain retailers such as Ebates.
Avoid Impulse Buys: People who shop without a plan can find themselves vulnerable to holiday deals or sales that may not be in their best interest. Stick to your plan and budget and avoid making unplanned purchases.
Pay with Cash: While it may be a trick of the brain, people tend to spend less when they are using cash rather than a debit or credit card. If you shop with only the amount of cash you’ll need to make your purchases, you’re certain to avoid overspending and impulse buys. It’s always a good idea to avoid credit card use entirely or to use credit cards responsibly by paying off balances every month.
Give Homemade or Thoughtful Gifts: Your time and attention can be a more valuable gift than an object. Consider creating a scrapbook for your family members commemorating an important milestone or even a fun party. Bring meals or cookies to sick or elderly loved ones. Do you have a special talent? Offer to help people in a way you’re uniquely gifted such as photography, web design, cooking or cleaning. These gifts can be incredibly meaningful and cost-effective as well.
Maybe you’ve done all the right things and you’re still having trouble making ends meet. Maybe a few bad financial decisions have left you drowning in debt. If you’re able to make payments, you may be able to get the help with your finances through a debt consolidation loan or by contacting a consumer credit agency, which negotiates with creditors on your behalf.
However, if you are in collections, facing repossession, utility shut off, eviction and more, you may want to consider talking to a consumer bankruptcy attorney to see if bankruptcy might be the right option for you.