Hangovers are the worst – you feel like you have been hit by a truck and can’t seem to focus on anything. But do you know what is worse than a hangover caused by a night of excessive drinking? A hangover caused by months of excessive shopping during the holiday season. Why? Because your holiday debt hangover has the potential to last months – maybe even years – before you can successfully pay it off.
While it’s normal nowadays to have a little bit of debt after the holidays (maybe you plan on using your Christmas bonus from work to pay it off or you already budgeted for this at the beginning of the year), but you don’t want to end up in a hole so big that it skews your finances for the rest of the year. Thankfully, you can still successfully buy all of your loved ones the perfect gifts without digging yourself a hole that you can’t get out of. Between scrounging up some extra cash over the holidays to fund your gift buying, and being savvy when it comes to identifying a real deal over a scam, these tips will help you avoid that nasty holiday credit card debt – and in turn, help you avoid future tax debt problems.
Plan Ahead and Budget
Before you start buying gifts, you should plan ahead and set a spending budget. First, take a look at your bank account and see how much you will actually be able to afford to spend this year. If you saved up throughout the year for this exact reason, you are already ahead of the game. It also helps if you make a list of everyone you want to buy a gift for at this stage and then figure out how much you want to spend on each person. For example, you don’t need to buy your boss something that costs over $50 (unless it is a group gift), so decide to spend under a certain amount and then only look at gifts that adhere to that limit.
Create a Spending Plan and Stick to It
Carrying on from the previous tip, it is really important to not go over your spending plan – and this includes more than just holiday gifts, as there might be things like travel expenses in your future as well. If you think you might go over your plan, look for places where you can trim some fat, so to speak. Going somewhere for the holidays and the hotel cost is more than you wanted to spend? See if you have friends in the area that you can stay with or ask someone to go in on the room with you to split the cost. If your friends want to have a festive holiday dinner, suggest some affordable restaurants or, even better, keep reading for an alternative idea.
Make Some Extra Cash
Making some extra money is a no-brainer solution to avoiding holiday debt. You can do this several different ways too, from saving little amounts of money all year to taking on odd jobs to selling your stuff. When it comes to saving money, there are tons of apps out there that are designed to help you save small amounts in a way that you won’t even notice. By withdrawing small amounts of money, these apps squirrel away cash for you and store them in a separate savings account that you are meant to forget about. If you don’t like that idea, you can always set aside a certain amount from each paycheck, but the ball is in your court to not only remember to do it, but then to actually do it.
Of course, you can always sell items from your home that you don’t really need or want anymore. Not only will you be cleaning out your closet and cupboards, you will finally be making some money off of those odds and ends that you forgot you even owned—a good garage sale is a form of spring cleaning, anyway. You can also sell your unwanted belongings on a site like OfferUp.com, a safe and easy local listings hub.
Finally, you can take on a seasonal job to make some extra money. Though you will be working, which isn’t the most fun, an additional job will bring in a steady stream of extra income that you can reserve solely for holiday expenses. Plus, you can take on something part time that won’t even demand that much time from you.
Consider Your Alternatives
Falling into the pricey gift trap is easy, but there are tons of ways that you can show your friends and family how much you care without spending thousands of dollars. When it comes to gifts, carefully consider each recipient and think of something that they will truly love – you might even be able to make them something instead. Sure, it’s easy to just buy someone a new smartwatch, but will that gift really mean anything to them in the long run? Alternatively, making them a custom cookbook full of neat recipes that center on healthy eating might make a much bigger impression.
Back to that fancy holiday dinner your friends wanted to have… Instead of going out to a restaurant, why not suggest hosting a potluck dinner instead? People can come dressed up in their favorite ugly Christmas sweaters and their favorite dish, and no one will have to spend more than $10 if they don’t want to.
If you plan ahead, stick to your budget and use some creative thinking, surviving the holidays without a dark cloud of debt hanging over your head is very possible.