With the holiday season in full swing, many of us find it easier to stop living within our budgets and assume we will magically figure out how to pay for things when the credit card bills come in January. Many Americans fall into this all too easy trap, don’t end the holiday season with more debt than you intended!

  • Consider creative gift-giving and gifts that have a personal touch, such as homemade gifts like cookies, candies or other prepared foods. Consumers can also consider making a fruit basket, which is both economical and healthy, or a personal gift certificate good for babysitting, washing the car, running errands or cooking a meal.
  • Reduce your regular budget expenses to increase the cash flow you have available for holiday spending. Take your lunch to work, cook at home instead of dining out. Plan ahead to avoid expenses like car maintenance or medical visits around the holidays.
  • Ask guests to chip in. This applies to meals, parties and extended family visits. For meals and parties, ask your guests to either bring a dish or bring what they wish to drink.
  • Make a shopping list with a spending limit and pay with cash. A realistic budget is essential for keeping spending under control. Paying with cash when possible and leaving one’s checkbook and credit cards at home can help avoid temptations for unplanned and unnecessary purchases.
  • Make a new tradition. Instead of spending all your energy focusing on the stuff you need to buy, focus on creating a new family tradition. Set up a family holiday movie night, plan a bonfire, pack everyone into the car to take a Christmas light tour, or volunteer as a family to help a charity, such as Toys for Tots. Planning an inexpensive new tradition will help you make memories instead of amassing debt.
  • Keep track of spending. Tally the receipts from all holiday expenses, including gifts, postage, meals, entertainment and decorations. Once a consumer has completed their shopping list, they should stop shopping. More mall time can amount to more spending. Those who have kept to their budgets will start the year with less debt and less stress. If you see that the total is getting too high for you to repay on your own, don’t wait to get help.

Even those with the best of intentions may end the holiday shopping season with more debt than they planned. WE CAN HELP! Center For Siouxland’s Consumer Credit Counseling department has trained and certified credit counselors who offer a range of financial management and debt-reduction services. We encourage anyone to make an appointment with us and start the new year with a clean financial slate. For more information on our various financial counseling services – or to set up an appointment call 712-252-1861 ext. 47.

  • One last thing when shopping for the holidays…Being the year’s busiest shopping season also means that the holidays put you at higher risk of identity theft. As you shop for the holidays – both in-store and online – take steps to protect against ID theft and credit fraud.

Happy holidays to all!