The decorations are up; the carols are playing and shoppers are making a mad dash for the stores. This year, consumers are expected to spend an average $813 on holiday related items, according to the International Mass Retail Association. But for some consumers, holiday spending will push them deeper into debt.
“Consumers without a holiday spending plan are the most likely to encounter serious debt problems when the January bills arrive,” says Durant Abernethy, president of the National Foundatation for Consumer Credit (NFCC). NFCC is offering a four-part series called Holiday Spending: A Plan for the Season designed to help consumers avoid the “January spending hangover.” The first two installments covered budgeting and inexpensive gift ideas. This third installment brings smart shopping tips.
Part Three: Smart Shopping Strategies
â¢ Set spending limits: Put in place a spending limit for each person on your list to fit within your budget. Disciplining yourself to not exceed these limits is the key to avoiding unmanageable bills.
â¢ Set aside shopping time. Running around when you don’t have much time or when you’re preoccupied or distracted is not very productive. Arrange for a day or half-day to shop by yourself. Also, try to plan your shopping time for early in the day and week. Stores tend to be less crowded in the mornings and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
â¢ Be efficient. Call stores to see if they have items on your list to avoid wasting time. Read newspaper ads and flyers for sales and specials to comparison shop to get the best buy. Also go where you have a choice of stores to shop. If you plan to return to a store, write down the item you want and the store. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget where you saw an item.
â¢ Track your spending. Take a predetermined amount of cash when you shop to keep from overspending. If you use credit cards, limit card purchases to the one or two cards with the lowest interest rates. Clip an index card to each credit card and write down your purchases to track how much you’ve charged.
â¢ Beware of “buy now, pay later” offers. Sure it sounds appealing, but if you cannot afford an item in December, will you really be able to in March?
â¢ When you have fininshed shopping, STOP! Always carry your gift list with you and cross names off once you’ve bought their gifts. When you’ve purchased items for everyone on your list, stop shopping. The festive atmosphere at malls and stores during the holiday season tempts many people to make unnecessary purchases.
Look for part four of of the NFCC Holiday Spending: A Plan for the Season series soon, which will offer last-minute tips to prepare for the holidays.
The National Foundation for Consumer Credit is the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit organization providing education and counseling services on budgeting and credit. NFCC members, located in 1,300 offices across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, can be identified by the NFCC member seal. This seal signifies standards that include agency accreditation, counselor certification and policies that ensure confidential services that are free or low-cost. Many offices operate under the name Consumer Credit Counseling Service.
To contact the NFCC office nearest you, check your local phone directory under Consumer Credit Counseling Service, call toll-free from a touch-tone phone 1-800-388-2227 or visit the NFCC web site at . Spanish-speaking consumers can call 1-800-682-9832.Details