4 Ways to Keep Holiday Shopping in Check

‘Tis the Season

Holiday shopping is hard to handle sometimes. Online payday loans can help, but budgeting is the real way to go. (Photo: Christoph Michels)

Holiday shopping is hard to handle sometimes. Online payday loans can help, but budgeting is the real way to go. (Photo: Christoph Michels)

It’s that time of year again: the debt season. This is the time of year when most people throw caution to the wind and spend money they do not have on gifts to maintain the image of success. To do this, they fall into the trap of using online payday loans as they were not intended – to simply get through to the end of the year.

Am I describing you? Are you still paying off last year’s holiday shopping spree and worried about what to do about this year’s shopping spree? Never fear, because if you follow these suggestions to keeping your holiday shopping in check, you will not only save money but also create lasting good will with your family and friends.

Create a Gift List

Before you can decide how much money you are going to spend, you need to figure out who should be on your list. This list can include your immediate or extended family, close friends, co-workers – anyone you are close to. Or it could just include your immediate family: kids, spouse and maybe your parents, if they are still living. Whoever you put on your list, you must make sure that you can afford to give them gifts without breaking your budget. Reduce if necessary, and continue to refine your list as you work out your budget.

Create a Budget

When you have your list done, the next step is to figure out how much you can spend on each person. Say you have 10 people on your list that you want to buy gifts for, and these are the final 10 after shaving your list down from 40. Let’s reasonably assume that you have enough cash to spend $20 on each person, making your gift budget $200 for the season. The assumption here is that you will not be whipping out your credit card this season to buy more than you can afford. You cannot use what you have not earned, right?

Food and Decorations, If You Please

If you have your gift budget carefully planned but do not have your food and decorations budget in order, your budget will be ruined in no time, leaving you with higher credit card and loan debts to pay off later. As the decorations are not consumable and can last for several years if they are put away carefully, the only reason you would need to buy decorations is if the lights do not work, or they have been ripped apart horribly by pets or kids. We have had the same stockings since my oldest was born almost 14 years ago, and they have held up extremely well.

Focus on the Feast

Your feast should be planned out, right down to the last little ingredient of the pecan pie. What type of feast do you want? Can you afford this feast without the use of online payday loans and credit cards? Generally, if you are careful to live within your means throughout the year, and have a bit left over in your monthly budget consistently, most people can handle spending an extra $50 to $100 for the holiday feast. If your food budget is normally $200 for two weeks, you may be able to bump that up to $300 for one payday, with a nice feast for an extra $100 without overspending.

Give Up the Guilt

One reason that many people overspend on gifts is that they feel pressured to do so out of guilt and duty. In this society, money and expensive gifts have been linked to the amount of love you hold for someone—the more you spend on a gift, the more you love the receiver of that gift. Commercialism has had something to do with this. Have you seen those jewelry commercials that say, “When you love enough to give the very best?” The implication here is that if you love enough, you will spend a lot of money. This really should be turned around to say that if you love enough, you will save a lot of money as a legacy for your children.

What people really want is time with you, regardless of how much money you spend on them. Give up the notion that you must overspend to show people how much you love them. Instead, come up with creative gift giving ideas, such as printing out coupons for a free housecleaning or a night out—something that shows you care by volunteering your time for them. This means more than money, and you don’t need to feel guilty.

Skip Plastic and Use Cash

A great way to keep your holiday shopping under control is to use cash instead of plastic, which also applies to a debit card. Although debit cards can help to minimize your spending, cash is still better. When you are using a card, you do not realize how much you are spending without a concrete and visual reminder. As you are shopping, you do not have this visual reminder of how much you are spending. If you have a wad of cash in your wallet, however, you can instantly know how much you are spending by how much lighter your wallet feels after each purchase. In the event that you run out, online payday loans are an option – just tread carefully.

Think People First

As you create debt each holiday season – which may include online payday loans – you begin to shift the priorities in your life. Instead of focusing on your family and friends, you get into a “make money” mindset that shifts your focus to money and work. Eventually, you are going to wake up and wonder what happened to your relationships and realize that if you would have placed people first, then money and then things, your relationships would have been a lot better. While having money and wealth makes life easier, it still doesn’t take the place of human relationships. Nurture these first and make these a priority this holiday season. Happy holidays!