Many people are entering the largest shopping season of the year financially ill-prepared. For some, the ghosts of Christmases past are still haunting them in the form of unmanageable credit card debt. For others, finding $800, the amount the National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend during the holidays this year, is seemingly beyond their reach.
For the many Americans who struggle to meet daily living expenses, the thought of the holidays approaching brings anxiety instead of joy. The pressure to purchase can be overwhelming, causing even the most well-intentioned to take on additional debt. To help people find money for holiday expenses and avoid creating debt, the NFCC offers the following tips:
- Â Take advantage of seasonal hiring by finding a second job doing something enjoyable, and earmark each paycheck for holiday spending. Even a 20-hour-per-week job can net hundreds of dollars by year-end. It may not sound appealing to take on a second job, but remember that debt is its own burden.
- This is the perfect time of the year to sell unwanted items. Scour the house for things that are no longer needed or used. Sell them locally or online and reap the benefits of having rid the house of clutter while generating extra money.
- Look for free ways to buy. Now may be the time to use any gift cards that have been saved. Check out how many reward points have been earned through credit cards. To maximize the points, evaluate making purchases through the cardâ€™s online partners. If using a cash-back card, consider redeeming the money available.
- Cut back on expenses. This may seem like an odd suggestion during the largest spending season of the year.Â However, the fact is that thereâ€™s a finite amount of money available, thus when spending in some categories increases, it means that spending in others will have to decrease. Make a conscious decision where to temporarily eliminate or reduce spending to make money available for holiday purchases.
- Consider re-gifting. Re-gifting has an undeserved bad image, but when looking at the facts, it actually makes sense. A perfectly good item that isnâ€™t liked or used benefits no one sitting in a closet gathering dust. It could be just the gift someone else has been hoping for.
- Instead of purchasing gifts, give the gift of self. Donate your time in another personâ€™s name to a charity and send cards to those on your gift list letting them know of this contribution. It will likely be appreciated and remembered much longer than any store-bought present. As an added bonus, it may inspire them to do the same.
- To free up money for other expenses, when entertaining have a potluck dinner instead of assuming the cost of the entire meal; when traveling, stay with friends or family instead of a hotel; consider buying a gift for the entire family instead of individual presents.
- If forced to charge expenses, put all holiday spending on one credit card, and commit to repaying that debt in the first quarter of 2015. Doing this will not only avoid paying excessive interest on the debt, but will prevent the holiday spending from being co-mingled with existing debt, and allow a more comprehensive picture of the spending.
Looking forward, resolve now to have cash available for 2015 holiday spending. Total the 2014 expenses and divide by 10. Commit to saving that amount from January through October, making the first gift of the 2015 holidays one to yourself â€“ a debt free holiday season.
Gail Cunningham manages Media Relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.