People may cringe at the idea of Christmas this early in the year, but in all reality it is the time to put a lock on that checkbook in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. In this economy, Christmas shopping often sneaks up, and being tied down with even more debt is sure to turn you into a first class Ebenezer Scrooge.
By September and October, many people are trying to clean up their debt, either to tie up loose ends by the end of the year or in preparation for the holidays. Whatever the motivation is, ridding yourself of debt is always a good idea. However, many people will open a credit card for Christmas – only to find themselves greeting the next year in an even bigger hole. Better cross your fingers that someone buys you a shovel!
There are several things that you can do to avoid debt during the holiday season. If there is a must-have item that you absolutely cannot pay for with cash, consider layaway. Many stores are reinstating the layaway policy due to the economy. Layaways allow you to make weekly or bi-weekly payments rather than paying the entire price upfront, without the hefty interest rates. Don’t treat layaway as a new form of credit card, though.
The “gotta have it right now” mentality is not a healthy one for the wallet, no matter how the payments are structured.
For those who prefer to save their money ahead of time, many banks have Christmas savings accounts, in which a small sum of money is drawn out of each paycheck and made unavailable until closer to the Christmas season. Savings accounts can work similarly, although you have to discipline yourself not to spend it and not rely on the bank to keep it out of your reach. You can even partition your direct deposit so that part of each check is deposited directly into savings.
Another easy way to save money around the holiday season is to buy gifts here and there throughout the year, rather than having to come up with a large sum of money at a single time. Christmas in July is the newest marketing effort most retailers are using, with many stores offering sales and discounts for those shopping early. Items that do not expire, such as gift cards, can be bought at any time and will hold until Christmas without a problem.
The holiday season does not have to be stressful. By purchasing gifts early, buying on layaway, and using a Christmas savings account, you can avoid high interest payments that bury you in debt throughout the next year.