’Tis The Season To Be Jolly — So Keep Costs Low

Frugal Ideas For Holiday Spending

By Bruce Castleberry

The holidays are an emotional time. It’s almost impossible not to be immersed in a blizzard of memories. But even if visions of sugarplums are dancing in your head, the costs that often come with the season can hit you like a 10-pound fruitcake or spiked eggnog.

Make sure you don’t wake up with a financial hangover this year by strategizing your spending. Here are some tips:

Make a list, check it twice. Shopping with a list means you are more likely to stay within a budget. Avoid impulse purchases.

Be careful with credit cards. The average person typically spends at least 20 percent more when shopping with credit cards instead of cash. Using credit cards makes it easy to deceive yourself about how much you really spent. Racking

up credit card debt is the “white elephant” gift that keeps on giving. Consumers who charge too much will have more stress, which can lessen the joy of the season. Even worse, credit card payments will limit your ability to buy things in the future, and interest and other fees will increase the cost of gifts.

And a partridge in a pear tree. Avoid picking up a “few” more things to make an existing gift “special.” If you’ve already bought the three French hens, do they need the four calling birds too? Most people will be happy enough to have been thought of with any gift. Don’t overdo it.

The red tag can put you in the red. Everyone loves a good deal, but if that good deal wrecks your budget, it’s not a good deal for your bank account.

Dasher and dancer. Last-minute panic shopping is a recipe for disaster. The pressure leads to hasty

decisions (which can cost more), not to mention the reduced selection (which can cost more). This frenzy also encourages shoppers to fall into expensive bad habits such as grabbing food on the run, because it’s easier than going home and making a meal, because blitzkrieg shopping is exhausting. Go to the stores as early as possible to space out your spending, or if possible, wait and take advantage of post-holiday deals.

The frosty error. When budgeting for season shopping, don’t forget associated costs such as cards, stamps, decorations, extra food costs, wrapping paper, stocking stuffers and other adornments.

Fortunately, there are several lowor no-cost alternatives for the frugal holiday gift-giver.

Make gift certificates for babysitting, cleaning or some other service.

Make gifts like cookies, cakes or candy.

Give a gift, but not a store-bought card. Create homemade cards.

Instead of an expensive item, fill a small stocking with inexpensive gifts.

While it may be too late for this season, use layaway plans if possible.

Give a family gift instead of individual gifts. A board game is a nice way to provide a family with more opportunities to spend time together.

If you have a large family, consider drawing names to exchange gifts.

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