Avoid excessive holiday debt

October 16, 2003

As December holidays approach, plan ahead so you will remember this season, rather than the months it took to pay off the mountain of debt incurred on gifts for family and friends.

To keep from spending too much money on holiday gifts, set a budget that won't put you in a tight financial squeeze.

Develop a prioritized list of the people for whom you want to buy gifts, and estimate how much money you can afford to spend on each person. Then, see if the total expenditure falls within your holiday shopping budget. If estimated shopping costs exceed your budget, consider adjusting the amount of money you've allocated for people, or think twice about including someone on your gift list.

Take this list when you go shopping. Remember to keep track of how much you spend on each person and the total amount spent on gifts.


Don't forget to include in your holiday budget other incidentals associated with the season including entertaining, holiday outfits, decorations, card, postage, wrapping paper and travel. You'll be amazed at how these items can add up.

Accumulating too much credit card debt can put you in a tight squeeze long after the holidays, especially if you only pay the minimum or a small part of the total each month. Ideally, you should pay off credit card charges the month the bill arrives. If this isn't possible, pay as much each month as you can to reduce credit-card interest charges.

These are some budget-saving ideas for the holidays.

Think of creative non-cash gifts. For example, give someone with small children a gift certificate for a free night of babysitting. If you're handy around the house, offer to do some minor home repairs. Buy some bulbs and put them in a pot so they'll bloom during the holidays. Give a gift from the kitchen, especially if you're known for a certain dish.

To reduce costs, shop for very young children at yard sales or used book and toy stores.

Take elderly friends shopping and to lunch, or offer to do errands for them.

Since magazines often have holiday gift specials, consider giving a subscription related to a friend's hobby or interests.

Invite some friends over to make batches of cookies or other baked goods you can divide and give as holiday gifts.

Alternatively, make large quantities of soup, chili or stew and freeze them to give as holiday gifts.

Give a gift certificate that can be stretched out at post-holiday sales. Consider giving children gift certificates to use later on in the year.

Thinking ahead to next year, shop throughout the year so you don't have to pay for everything in one or two months.

For more financial information, contact us at the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service at (859) 236-4484.

Donna Clore is Boyle County extension agent for family and consumer science. |None***

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