Sense & Centsibility Blog

Get a jump start on holiday shopping

Did you know there are only 143 days until Christmas? While there's still about a month left of summer, it's a really smart idea to get started on your holiday shopping early. So we're flashing back to this post from last February about planning ahead. Happy shopping!

We took a poll of our readers asking them if they save money for Christmas shopping throughout the year. Out of the fifty-one respondents, only 29% said they save money throughout the year to buy presents. That means that the majority are doing all of their shopping with what leftover money they have in November and/or December. And like many Americans, at least some are probably using credit cards to cover what they can't afford to pay for with cash.

That's why - even though it's only the end of February - it's a good time to start thinking about the 2016 holiday season. Here are 4 tips to help you avoid using credit cards next December.Cutting up credit card

  • Start setting aside a little bit of money each month. Pick a number - $10, $25, $50. Or whatever you can afford while still keeping up on your other on-going expenses, bills and emergency savings fund.
  • Reduce or cut a small expense to set aside more. If you don't have anything leftover to save after all of your expenses this is an easy way to find "extra" money. Cut lunches out 3 times a week down to two and set aside what you normally would have spent or bring coffee from home instead of heading to the coffee shop.
  • Start shopping now. Listen to friends and family when they say "I want a [insert item here]". Then watch for sales and start making purchases here and there throughout the year.
  • Hit up online or local garage sales. The old saying that one person's trash is another person's treasure can be true for many of us. And sometimes you can find items that the previous owner has never been used.
The beauty of planning ahead is that you will avoid having to use credit next winter. Plus when you don't have to spend every last dime of your money those couple months before Christmas, you'll likely have a more enjoyable holiday season not having to worry about skimping and saving.

If you don't celebrate Christmas or have other events that you know will be coming up, the tips above will still be useful. Think about birthdays, other holidays, trips to visit family, weddings, etc. and start setting aside money or buying gifts ahead of time so that you don't have to worry about it at the last minute.

And if you normally charge gifts and know approximately how much you spend, check out the Scrooge-o-Meter to see how long those gifts will take to pay off... and their true cost.

If you're still paying for previous years' holidays, you might want to check into a Debt Management Plan. A DMP will help you pay off credit cards faster and save you money. If you want to see if the DMP is right for you, get started with a free online financial counseling session or call us at 888.577.2227 for a phone, Skype or in-person appointment. Support is here if you need it; LSS can help you achieve your goals.   

ElainaAuthor Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.