Like it or not, the holiday shopping season is just around the corner. If you are like most Americans, you probably have already started your holiday shopping. For those who have some shopping left to do, consider the following tips to help you spend wisely this holiday season so that you are not saddled with debt after the holiday bliss fades away.
Establish Your Shopping Budget
Before the Black Friday spirit hits the air (or Black Thursday considering that some retailers have announced plans to open as early as 6 am on Thanksgiving Day!), seriously think about what you can truly afford. Prioritize mandatory expenses such as household bills and tithes and set that money aside before going shopping. Your kids should not have to open their Christmas gifts in the dark because you spent the light bill money on gifts.
Plan Your Shopping List
Spend time making a list of people for whom you would like to buy this season. Be strategic about who you place on your list and plan to shop only for those truly close to you. This is not to discourage you from blessing those around you as you feel led, but you should not go broke trying to impress people who do not really care about you.
When you shop for your truly loved ones, be strategic about what you plan to get for them. Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, explains that gift giving and receiving is only one of five ways that people show and experience love. People also show and experience love through words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. So if your wife’s love language is quality time, consider giving her a homemade book of coupons that she can use to redeem segments of quality time with you (or if you're not crafty you can use this website to order custom-designed coupon books). However, if your husband's love language is receiving gifts, then you’d better find him a nice, thoughtful gift.
Think Twice Before Using Credit
It is rarely a good idea to use credit to do your holiday shopping. It is easy to get carried away when you are shopping with an endless budget, and when the holiday bliss dies down, it can be depressing paying mountains of bills for items that you yourself are not able to enjoy. Chances are that if you have you use credit, you really cannot afford the items you are purchasing. Avoid the unnecessary stress by using money that you have saved rather than relying on credit.
If you decide that you must use credit to do your holiday shopping, set a limit and write out your plan for paying it off as soon as possible. Select a date that you want to pay off the debt and determine how much you need to pay each month (or week) to get the debt cleared. Make sure that your plan has you paying off the debt before the next holiday season so that you can start next year's shopping with a clean slate.
Remember Why We Celebrate Christmas in the First Place
Jesus is the reason for the season. Keep our focus there to guard against spending outside of your means. Establish holiday traditions that help you remember the meaning behind Christmas without spending a lot of money. Your family is more likely to remember the time you spent together than the gifts you exchanged amongst each other. And you will be more likely to enjoy the season knowing that you do not have to start your new year with a new set of bills.
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