Linda Lewis Griffith

Finances and the Holidays: Don’t go (for) broke at mall

You want your holidays to be merry and bright. But you don’t want to break the bank in the process. Below are tips for celebrating the season without going into debt:

Make a budget. Decide how much you have to spend on co-workers, family and besties. Then stay within those preset constraints. A little splurging here and there quickly adds up. And once you go over, it’s tempting to throw the whole budget into the coal bin.

Make a list. Carefully consider what you want to purchase. This is not time for spontaneity to kick in.

Consider shopping online. A website like Amazon.com  has exactly what you want all in one place. If you’re purchasing a number of items, shipping is thrown in. Just remember to stick to your list.

Shop only for your closest friends and loved ones. Pare down your list. Decide who’s a must-give-to and who receives a cheery note or a holiday hug.

Be creative. There is a sleighful of ways to give to others. Many require very little money. Regift items from your closet that you’re no longer using. Make a photo album from your iPhone. Set a date to have brunch with your girlfriends.

Manage your emotions. Spending increases in direct proportion to your anxiety. So don’t shop when you’re rushed or chaotic. Don’t compare your gifts to others or worry that you’re not getting enough. Take a deep breath if your thoughts get crazy. Vacate the premises if you start feeling overwhelmed.

Avoid malls. The bright lights, crowds and overstimulation encourage you to buy way more than you need. Shop at small boutiques instead of massive retail complexes. What they lack in selection they make up for in sanity. If you must shop the malls, do it during the least hectic times so you can park, shop and leave with relative ease.

Pay with cash. Leave the credit cards at home. Take only the cash you need to pay for your purchases. Credit cards are incredibly convenient. But they make overspending way too easy.

Visit eBay for great bargains. Don’t like regifting but can’t afford full fare? EBay is the perfect spot to find “tags-still-on” items that others don’t want.

Don’t shop alone. Bring a calm, rational friend along to keep over-shopping in check. An occasional reminder (“Do you really need to buy that?”) will work miracles on your wallet.

Keep away from sales. They can spell disaster. They may seem like a good idea, but their goal is to get you to spend more.

Don’t buy for yourself. Avoid the “One-for-you, one-for-me” pitfall. Christmas shopping is for others. You have the whole year to shop for yourself.

Start planning for next year. It’s not too early. Set up a Christmas savings account that automatically takes money out of your paycheck. Come November, you’ll already have what you need to tackle Christmas shopping again.

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