The Black Friday sale ads have already been flooding my mailbox, and I have to admit it’s going to be tough to resist going clothes shopping in the predawn hours to take advantage of the 40 percent off storewide sales that end at sunrise—even though my closet is already overstuffed.
1. Set aside the guilt. Will buying your kids, parents, or spouse the latest gadget or beautiful bauble make you feel less guilty for not spending enough time with them? Make time for togetherness, not excess purchases.
2. Don’t spend more during the holidays than you can pay back in one month. This is probably the hardest to do, but it’s the only way to keep that credit card debt from piling up.
3. Use a debit card, checks or cash. Making purchases with funds that you already have on hand will keep you from going into credit card debt over the holidays. If you’re worried about a child, spouse, or parent over-spending themselves into debt, you can purchase a Next Step MasterCard for them, which is pre-paid, allows you to set weekly or daily spending limits, and provides tracking for all purchases. It costs $9.95 for two cards and has a $14.95 monthly fee.
4. Put meaning into your gifts. I’d be thrilled if my kids gave me IOU cards for household duties like sweeping the kitchen floor, doing a load of laundry, or cleaning their bathroom. I’d also appreciate a small donation to one of my favorite charities. Or how about planning an outing to the theater, a football game, or favorite restaurant? Most of us don’t want more clutter from gifts we can’t use. We just want to know a loved one cares.
5. Plan ahead for following year. Start a Christmas club account—a short-term bank account that hearkens back to the Great Depression—where you set aside $50 or $100 a month to save for the holidays. go through spending and see if you can reduce monthly spending to put into holiday savings. “Staying focused on what it is you really want and how your spending plays into that equation,” said Tisdale, “and you’ll stay on track.”