Saturday, October 31, 2009

Holiday Shopping

Dave's Thoughts About Holiday Shopping

If you pay for your holiday festivities with credit, you're bringing a stalker home for Christmas. The holidays will follow you around all year long.

The process usually goes something like this:

You buy costumes and decorations for Halloween, a feast for Thanksgiving, and Christmas gifts for your family, more than likely waiting until the last minute for each occasion and missing the good deals. If you're not on Dave's plan (and, if not, what's stopping you?), you throw everything on the credit card.

In January, the bills start coming in the mail. One by one, the bills remind you of the temporary holiday thrill-rides. Unable to pay everything off at once, you pay the minimums.

By June, you've hardly made a dent in the holiday debt—which has simply been added to all your other miscellaneous debt like student loans, mortgages and the always-dreaded car payment.

By fall, you should be planning ahead for next Christmas. But, instead, you're still dealing with last year's debt—plus all the accumulated debt from the ghosts of Christmases past.

And the cycle continues. That is, until you finally say, "Enough!" No more debt. No more credit. It's time to make a plan early in the year, and then stick to it!

Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday of November. Christmas is always on December 25. These dates never change. There's no excuse for getting caught off-guard and desperately piling up mounds of debt on credit cards.

So let's say you haven't started making a plan for the upcoming holidays yet, but now you are ready to get moving. You've still got time!

Consider some of these holiday shopping ideas:

Research. Before you head to the mall, look for deals online. Visit the websites of the stores you plan to visit, and check out their prices. Don't waste your time shopping at one store if you know the store down the street has a better deal.

Make a budget. This is common-sense stuff, but it's amazing how many people have no financial plan for their spending. They are like an energetic kid in a toy store, grabbing the first toy that looks pretty and tossing it into the shopping cart. In order to work your way out of debt, you must become disciplined during the holiday season. If you must buy for everyone, keep it simple and stay within your means—however meager they may be. Don't get caught up in "bigger is better," or else the bigger debt in January will remind you of how stupid that mindset is.

Use Cash. As Dave always says, you spend less when you use cash. Before you hit the stores, swing by the ATM and pick up a pre-planned amount of money. Then, stop shopping when it's gone! If you've planned ahead and followed the two steps listed above, then using cash should be easy. You'll know what you need to buy and how much it will cost—before you start.

Start now—no, really, right now!—planning for your Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Or, wait until the last minute and celebrate them for months to come by wading through all those bills.

The choice is up to you!

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