Sense & Centsibility Blog

Start Planning For Holiday Shopping Now

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.

credit cards

  • 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. Or, 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.

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 the 2015 or previous years' holidays, you might want to check into a Debt Management Plan. The best benefit is that with on-time monthly payments your debt would be paid off in 5 years or less, not to mention all the money you'll save in interest. If you want to see if the DMP is right for you, start your 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 conquer your debt for good. 

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