How many times have you heard the expression, “‘Tis the season for giving”? Which is fine if you’re rolling in dough, but not if you have to go (further) into debt to buy for everyone on your list. Depending on your religious beliefs, ‘tis the season to commemorate your faith, if you have one, or to celebrate the return of the sun on Dec. 22 if you don’t.
Billshark suspects the “giving” aspect was overlaid onto the celebration by retailers eager to unload their merchandise during a particularly slow time of year. That doesn’t mean you have to give in to their meme, especially if it means running up debt to meet anyone’s expectations.
So here are five ways to ensure you don’t end up with a pile of holiday bills come January.
1. Change your mindset
For some people, the gift-buying frenzy is as much a part of the holiday as carols and cookies. It doesn’t have to be if you realize that this particular tradition that was imposed on you by marketers. There are plenty of other less-costly ways to set this time of year apart from the rest: parties, baking, visiting, holiday-themed movies and books, decorating . . .
2. Budget for your own reality
If you’re so wealthy that you can have the maid or chauffeur do your shopping for you, no problem. If you’re like the other 95 percent of us, you need to make a gift list that conforms to what you can afford. Just because your best friend who happens to be a hedge fund manager buys you tickets to a Broadway show doesn’t mean you have to match that dollar amount. A meaningful gift from the heart—a photo of the two of you in a charming frame you found at Goodwill—carries far more significance than something you find in a store.
3. Start early
The earlier you start shopping, the better the result on your wallet. Not only will you have the time to ferret out the best bargains, but you won’t get into a time crunch and start grabbing whatever’s available at the last minute.
4. Stick to your spending limit
We know what it’s like to be strolling through a store and suddenly spot that (pricey) perfect present. Either pass it up or stop before you buy it and figure out what else you can cut from your budget to pay for it. Buy a smaller tree? Cancel your holiday party? Skip a manicure? Eat beans for a week? The only wrong answer here is to charge it and figure out how to pay for it next month.
5. Be creative
Often the most memorable gifts can’t be found at the mall. Thought is what counts; that is, the time you spend thinking of the recipient’s likes and dislikes and attempting to find them that perfect gift. Some examples:
- a gift certificate of transportation for your grandmother in an assisted living facility
- a hard-to-find book you tracked down on EBay for your brother who’s always wanted it
- copies of your favorite recipes if you’re a renowned cook
- a free massage for your stressed-out sister if you’re a masseuse
- an oil change if you’re good with cars
You get the idea.
The point is to find ways to celebrate the holidays without demolishing your budget. You need to respect the money you work hard for all year.
And if you need to find a little—or a lot—extra to play with, let Billshark’s professionals do it for you. We will review your bills for free, then negotiate with each company to lower them. If we can’t, it costs you nothing.