The holidays can be a magical time; but they may also be stressful for those trying to stretch their budget to cover the costs of everything from holiday meals to decorations. A recent consumer survey by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) found nearly 50 percent of respondents spend between $300 and $1,000 on holiday expenses, and an additional 15 percent of respondents said they spend more than $1,000!
There are many ways to spread holiday expenses over a longer period of time. Some people shop sales throughout the year. Others save a little money each month, so they can enjoy the energy of shopping during the actual holiday season.
Regrettably, many people do not take advantage of the time they have to prepare for holiday spending. In fact, a full 32 percent of respondents to the GCUA survey said they either do not plan at all, or start planning less than a month in advance how they will cover the costs of the holidays.
Being ill-prepared for seasonal spending leads some shoppers to overextend high-interest credit cards, forcing them to start the new year with a pile of debt. But consider these alternatives, which may save you time and stress, in addition to money:
- Rewards cards: Sign up for a credit card that offers reward points which can be used to redeem merchandise, travel and cash. If you hoard points throughout the year, you may be able to redeem them for gift cards and other items without spending a penny.
- Additional savings accounts: Start saving early in the year for holiday expenses by setting up an additional savings account, separate from your primary savings. Delta Community members can establish an unlimited number of Additional Personal Savings Accounts, which earn the same interest as primary Savings Accounts. Naming the accounts for specific savings goals, such as a vacation or major purchase, may even inspire you to save more money. How fun will it be to watch your savings grow, when you know it’s for that Christmas cruise?
- Bargain shop: In addition to hitting the sales racks in your favorite stores, always check out online sites to search for bargains, and take advantage of offers for free shipping.
- Shop early: Shopping in advance of the holiday season spreads expenses out over a manageable length of time and gives you the opportunity to shop for items on sale. Even if you purchase gifts with a credit card, you can pay them off over time and avoid having a large chunk of debt all at once.
- Loans: Consider whether a Personal Loan is a good alternative to credit cards for seasonal spending. Holiday Loans may be easier to repay, since their monthly payments are consistent. They also offer competitive interest rates and, often, a choice of payment options.
Of course, the best way to save your sanity during the holidays is by spending only what you can afford. Better yet, instead of spending money, spend only your time and talent: gift someone with a homemade craft; make a date with friends and relatives; volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit a nursing home. Such generous gestures have a double impact – they can make meaningful differences in the lives of recipients, and may even provide givers with emotional boosts – something we can all appreciate this time of year.