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Avoid Overspending this Holiday Season

Whether it is tradition or the holiday spirit, many people enjoy shopping during the holidays. Retailers know this and do their best to part us from our money. Newspapers, TV commercials, radio, billboards, and social media ads seem to have become as essential as air and water and have crept into every minute of our day for about two solid months. I’m pretty sure I see some of these ads so often they become part of my dreams.

For some people, this deluge goes mostly ignored. Still, others can get carried away and feel obligated to buy their friends and family everything they have ever wanted, even if it is with money they don’t have. While using a credit card, debt once in a while because you don’t have enough cash or money on your debit card isn’t typically an issue; it can become a problem for some people. One purchase on a card seems harmless, then another and another. After all, it’s just a swipe of a small plastic card, and it is so easy. Pretty soon, what seems like free money turns into a bottomless pit of debt with loan shark-level interest. Even if you are able to make the payments, you are never actually paying down the loan principle.

If this doesn’t sound like you, but you are finding that you are spending much more during the holidays than you anticipated, there are still some simple things you can do to avoid overspending. I often write about physical health as part of a greater topic of wellness. Another less-mentioned but still important aspect of overall wellness is financial wellness. The concept simply means financial freedom and stability. This includes short-term spending, such as during the holidays.

1. Set a budget – The first thing you’ll want to do during the holidays is set a budget. This applies to buying gifts but could also extend to things such as food for holiday meals, travel, gas, and other expenses that are out of the ordinary. The more you can predict what you will spend, the better prepared you’ll be to manage expenses.

2. Avoid using credit cards – It sounds simple, but don’t spend money you don’t have. True, some people are great at managing credit card debt and use it to get perks offered by the credit card companies. Those are typically people who have money and don’t need credit cards in the first place. Unless you are super savvy with money and can pay everything off right away, only buy things with money you have on hand and don’t have to borrow.

3. Plan ahead – Make a list of expenses, including people you want to buy for and any incidental expenses that might come up. Think of anything and everything you might spend money on, then pair the list down if it gets out of hand or the expense is unlikely. This goes along with setting a budget and will help keep you from making spontaneous purchases.

4. Only buy for those closest to you – It’s easy to want to buy a gift for everyone you know, but with inflation and the price of things these days, most of us simply cannot afford to buy for our third cousin and the guy at the gas station. Make a list of those closest to you that you are set on buying a gift for, and then assign an upper-limit gift price to help you stay on budget. The list might need to be adjusted if your total exceeds your budget. Everyone else should get a card or something home-made that costs little. Remember, it should be about the thought anyway and not the price of the gift.