Save money without skimping the ‘ho ho ho’Have you seen all the Christmas items in the stores already? Christmas is a time to celebrate family, friends and traditions. For many, however, it is also a time of great stress and large credit card debt. Be creative and start early to avoid debt. October is not too early — I’ve heard from folks who are already done with their holiday shopping.
By: Eunice Sahr, NDSU Extension Service, The Jamestown Sun
Have you seen all the Christmas items in the stores already? Christmas is a time to celebrate family, friends and traditions. For many, however, it is also a time of great stress and large credit card debt. Be creative and start early to avoid debt. October is not too early — I’ve heard from folks who are already done with their holiday shopping.
Explore ways to cut down, not out, the things you do and give. Children learn from the example we set. If our Christmas spending is more than we can and should afford, their expectations are often more than we can afford. Teach children that Christmas is more than getting gifts — it is sharing, spending time together and giving to those less fortunate.
To avoid debt this season, consider these tips:
* Set a holiday budget and stick to it. Include everything — gifts, wrapping paper, holiday entertaining, travel to visit relatives, office parties, etc.
* Update your net worth statement. It is easier to be realistic when you know the numbers. Your net worth statement should be updated at least yearly. Plan to spend no more than 1 to 5 percent of your net income for holiday spending.
* Keep track of total expenses this year. Divide that amount spent by 12 and save that amount each month over the next year. Establish a savings account just for holiday spending.
* Avoid purchases on a credit card unless you can pay off the full balance when the bill comes due. Also avoid buying on a deferred payment plan. It sounds great to have no payment and no interest, but interest usually accrues during the no-payment time period.
* Avoid cash advances on your credit card. The fees are generally 2 to 4 percent of the advance.
Avoid using the blank checks that come with credit cards. Read the fine print carefully. Most have cash advance rates or are linked to a high interest rate loan.
* The gift card market is growing rapidly. These make an ideal gift if everyone understands the terms and conditions. Check the expiration date of the card. If it is not clearly marked, write it on the card so the recipient sees it. Check to see if there are fees associated with purchasing the card. Does it have maintenance fees, dormancy or replacement fees?
* Give stocks or bonds. It is a great way to teach family members about investing. Or donate to a person’s favorite charity.
* Send postcards instead of regular cards — they cost less to buy and mail.
Draw names for family members and set a spending limit. Consider buying a household gift vs. individual gifts for extended families.
* Entertain at home versus eating out. Potluck dinners are often an affordable way for families/ friends to spend time together.
It’s not too early to plan for the holiday season to reduce the stress on you and your pocketbook.
For more information on this topic, contact Eunice Sahr, extension agent, NDSU Extension Service/ Stutsman County. She may be reached at 252-9030 or eunice.sahr@ ndsu.edu.