The holidays are right around the corner — and if you’re like most Americans, that probably means spending money you might not have. In fact, roughly half of millennials and Gen Xers are willing to add to their debt during this time of year — and 51% of all consumers say that the holidays are a good reason to increase the amount they owe. But since 70 million Americans experienced or were contacted about debt collection in 2017, those shopping decisions can have huge ramifications well into the new year.
These days, we use plastic for just about everything. From products we buy (some of which are created through the reaction injection molding process) to the payment methods we use to purchase them, it’s all too easy to rely on this material. But when you get too swipe-happy, you might not realize that you’re decking the halls in debt. Here’s how to avoid spending too much this season — without saying “bah humbug” to the entire holiday.
Avoid “Buy Now, Pay Later” Options
Credit cards are appealing because they allow us to put off actual payment until later on — and that’s exactly how many consumers get into trouble. But even if you don’t use credit cards for this reason, there are still options available to you that can end up being dangerous to your financial health. Companies like Klarna, AfterPay, LaterPay, ClearPay, LayBuy, and even PayPal Credit can allow consumers to make purchases in the present and pay later or over time in installments. That might sound like a more affordable way to go, but experts warn that using these methods could cause you to overspend and regret it afterwards. Because the charges don’t take effect in the here and now, they’re easy to forget about or think of in the abstract. One survey found that half of respondents said buy-now-pay-later schemes encouraged them to spend beyond their means, while 27% of consumers said they experienced financial hardships in the aftermath of using these methods to pay for items. Ultimately, it’s best to spend only what you know you have and pay immediately. It’s all too tempting to push everything off and subsequently realized you’ve over-bought.
Set Spending Limits
No matter how you choose to pay for holiday presents, you have to establish an overall budget and set spending limits for your loved ones’ gifts. It’s easy to get carried away or feel pressure to buy additional presents. But if you set a specific monetary limit for each recipient, you’ll be able to make smarter buying decisions and will ensure the gifts you choose will really count. It might also encourage you to get a little creative by making some homemade presents or treating someone to an experience, rather than an extravagant item they might never use. If you’re coordinating gift exchanges with family and friends, agree upon a limit well before anyone starts their holiday shopping to ensure the process is fair to all.
Take Advantage of Discounts
You don’t have to be a Scrooge to save money. All you have to do is be a bit savvier and take your time. Rather than feeling like you have to purchase items immediately, take your time and look around for the best possible deal. Of course, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are often popular — but they may not actually provide the most substantial discounts, depending on the retailer. Sign up for email lists, scour the internet for coupons, and use apps and browser plug-ins that will alert you when prices drop. Just be sure that when you take advantage of these deals that you don’t trick yourself into thinking it’s okay to spend more. With a substantial promo code, it’s easy to justify purchases you don’t really need. Refer back to your budget and to a particular spending limit before checking out.
Pay Off Credit Card Purchases Immediately
Say you do use credit cards to make a purchase or two during the holiday season. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re generally good at spending within your means. We already have a collective $9.12 trillion in mortgage debt in the United States, so it’s wise not to add any further undue debt burdens from unwise credit use. You’ll want to make sure that you pay off your full balance right away. Instead of paying the minimum amount, which will come along with added interest over time, pay everything you owe as soon as possible. This isn’t what credit card companies want you to do, as this won’t make them money — but it’s the best way to ensure you don’t rack up holiday debt when making these kinds of purchases. Approximately one-third of Americans have poor credit and if you’re not careful, it can be an easy trap to fall into. It pays to stay vigilant. While you’re at it, find out more about any credit card rewards you might have that you aren’t using. Don’t use your rewards as an excuse to make unnecessary purchases, of course, but don’t discount their usefulness in certain situations.
With all of the holiday marketing we’re exposed to during this time of year, it’s hard not to feel as if we’re spending too little. There’s no denying that the holidays have been heavily commercialized — but with these tips, you can still participate in the joy of gift-giving without going for broke.