Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just days away. Everyone will spend time with loved ones and eat until they feel like they’re ready to pop. But, no rest for the weary! Black Friday comes bright and early Friday morning—it’s such an ungodly hour, I’m not sure we can even call it morning. After stuffing themselves full of turkey and yams, millions of Americans will brave the cold, the crowds, and the craziness to save a bundle on their Christmas shopping. Friends, these people (myself included) are warriors on the retail battle ground. Oh, the horror stories I could tell you from my close to 20 years of Black Friday shopping experience! But I’ll save that horrific tale for my memoirs…moving on.

During all of the excitement of “lowest prices of the season” and “rock bottom prices”, it’s REALLY easy to overspend. Guys, these stores have things you never even knew you needed in your life. These marketing geniuses will have you asking yourself how you’ve ever managed to live without *insert item here*. The average American spent just shy of $1,000 last year on Christmas shopping and that number will likely rise this year. So how can you shop all of the wonderful Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and get all of the best goodies for everyone on your shopping list, all without going into debt? Like any warrior, you need a strategy—a  battle plan, if you will.

Don’t Wait

For starters, most of the people who really have this whole saving-money-on-Christmas-shopping thing down to a science don’t wait until after Thanksgiving to start their shopping. These people shop throughout the year and spread out their expenses. Many of these people will begin their shopping just as soon as Christmas is over! For those of us who haven’t strategically planned and already gotten a jump start, it’s food for thought for next year.

Make Your List and Check It TwiceMake a List

Hey, there’s a song about that! But seriously, before you ever step foot into the stores, think ahead. Write down all of the people you will need to shop for. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can write down a couple of gift ideas for each person. That will make shopping through the Black Friday ads even easier. Even if you don’t score the perfect gift on your Black Friday shopping adventure, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for come Cyber Monday or whenever else you decide to do your Christmas shopping.

Budget

After you know how many people you need to shop for, decide on a budget for all of your Christmas shopping. I don’t mean pull some number out of thin air. I mean look at your bank account and crunch some numbers—determine how much you CAN spend. Keep in mind there are lots of other holiday festivities, so don’t go for broke on just shopping. Factor in other outings like dinner, entertainment, etc. If you need some extra cash, tons of stores are always looking for seasonal help. Find a store that would complement your schedule well. If you can land a job at a store you where you already like to shop,  you could even do some Christmas shopping there with your employee discount. Don’t go too crazy and spend your entire paycheck, though!

The Christmas Credit Conundrum

Ah, credit cards. That age-old love-hate relationship. Many of us have credit cards which allow us to accumulate rewards. In this case, you’ll WANT to use a credit card to score some extra rewards to use towards goodies later. However, if you plan on making this a debt-free Christmas, make sure to only spend what you’re able to pay off immediately. This way, you’re not going to accrue any interest payments. Speaking of rewards, maybe you have some cash rewards or some points from using your credit card throughout the year you haven’t redeemed yet. Consider redeeming those rewards for cash or gift cards. You can use the gift cards as gifts themselves, or use them for your Christmas shopping. Voila! Money saved!

While we’re talking about credit cards, let’s talk about “The Christmas Credit Conundrum”. It’s so easy to just swipe now and pay later. The problem is, if you don’t have the funds for “later” when the bill comes due, you’re going to dig yourself into a hole. Those Christmas gifts you bought on credit could easily double if you only pay the minimum payment month after month. All of the money you thought you “saved” has gone up in smoke and you’ve ended up paying more than the original price.

If you and credit cards don’t mix well, consider dealing in all cash for your Christmas shopping. Once you’ve decided how much you can spend, withdraw that much and put it into an envelope. I’m not saying to go crazy and slice your credit cards to smithereens, just whenever you go Christmas shopping, take that envelope with you and leave your plastic at home. This way, you won’t be tempted to overspend and you’ll be forced to stay within your budget.

Be Realistic

Most of all, know your limits. If this year has been a really tough one financially, consider scaling back. Christmas isn’t about all of the beautiful packages under the Christmas tree. It’s about slowing down and spending time with those who mean the most to you. If you still want to give gifts, remember, it really is the thought that counts. Consider giving baked goodies or gifts of service—offer to babysit the kids so mom and dad can enjoy a date night. Be creative. Certainly don’t rack up massive debt you have no clue how you can pay off. Don’t drain your emergency fund—that’s there for EMERGENCIES (and Christmas doesn’t count!). DO NOT touch your retirement! In the long run, it really won’t be worth it, I promise. If this year was really tight, consider getting a jump start on next year early on so you don’t run into the same dilemma. Plan your budget with Christmas in mind and set aside a certain amount each month to be used for your holiday shopping.

If you have any financial questions, Wealth Builders can help! We are a team of financial professionals who have years of experience. Feel free to call our office to schedule a free consultation. In celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, our office will be closed on Thursday, November 23 and Friday, November 24. We will reopen Monday, November 27. I hope each and every one of you enjoys a wonderful time of relaxation with family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving from the Wealth Builders family to yours!

“2016 Christmas Gift Spending Plans Top $900.” American Research Group, Inc, 21 Nov. 2016, americanresearchgroup.com/holiday/.

Goundreau, Jenna. “How To Stay Out Of Debt This Christmas.” Forbes, 10 Dec. 2012, 9:46AM, www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoundreau/2012/12/10/how-to-stay-out-of-devt-this-christmas/#214e9f7428a0.

Lowe, Cherie. “Stay Out of Debt This Christmas.” Living Well Spending Less, 11ADAD, www.livingwellspendingless.com/2016/11/25/stay-out-of-debt-this-christmas/.