Personal spending: How to avoid holiday debt
The holiday season has arrived, and with it “the pressure to spend,” said Emmie Martin in CNBC.com. Americans are projected to fork out $862 each on holiday gifts this year, about $100 more than last year, according to Gallup. This spending splurge has spawned an “alarming” trend: “ holiday-induced debt.” More than one in 10 Americans are still “carrying last year’s debt” as they plunge into this year’s holiday spending season. That Millennials are the “worst culprits,” with 24 percent still paying off 2016’s gifts, is “particularly worrisome.” Although 27 percent of all shoppers confess to not bothering with a budget, creating one is the only way to figure out how much you can actually spend without sliding into the red. Seeing the numbers written down will help you be less impulsive, said Julie Compton in NBCNews.com. “Once you know how much you want to spend, create a list for each person you plan to buy gifts for.” Planning ahead gives you time to “research gifts online, find the best deals, and save on shipping.”
Revisit your list of recipients several times over the season, and ask yourself: Do I really need to buy this person a present? said N’dea Yancey-Bragg in USA Today. Economically speaking, gifts are a huge “waste of resources,” and misplaced guilt is the main reason holiday budgets run over their limits. Last year, American consumers squandered $9.5 billion— or $71 per person— on “unwanted gifts.” Perhaps the best way to avoid having the holidays devolve into an unsatisfying “arms race” of spending is to rethink your gifting strategy. “Eschewing gift giving doesn’t make you a Grinch”; in fact, it may render you “more of a savvy Santa.” Unwanted presents often end up “tossed in a landfill” anyway. And for those who do make your final list, consider giving them experiences, such as an activity or “even just a meal together.” Studies show such experiences can “provide more longlasting happiness” than physical goods can.
That type of giving creativity can help curtail “the wastefulness of the holiday season,” said Timothy Lee in Vox.com. Be thoughtful and imaginative with your gifts, but remember that gift cards from a recipient’s favorite store will also be gleefully accepted in place of an item someone didn’t ask for. You can save a lot of money this year by doing homework on the best deals before you start off for the mall or shop online, said Alan Henry in The New York Times. If you feel under pressure, remember “sometimes the best deals are yet to come, and you’ll find them later in the season, on your own schedule.” ■