(StatePoint) The holidays are fast approaching, making now the time to consider some wise strategies to get the most out of the season, without wreaking havoc on your personal finances.
Americans are projected to spend between 3.8 percent and 4.2 percent more this holiday season over 2018, according to the National Retail Federation. Plugging in the 2018 estimate of $1007.24 spent per person, this year’s spending average could rise to $1,049.54 — in many cases, money that families don’t currently have.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans don’t have $500 in savings, according to CNN.com and the average credit card debt per household (as of May 2019) is $8,402, according to The Balance. Even with above minimum monthly payments of $250 and a (below average) 12 percent interest rate, CreditKarma.com calculates that it would take 3.5 years to pay off that debt.
For a merry holiday season that leaves you in good financial standing, consider these savvy spending strategies.
• Game the Gift Card System: Gift cards don’t have to be used only for what their name implies. Buy them for your own use from stores where you later plan to holiday shop. By spending a little at a time, the expense of the season won’t sting as much. To get even more bang for your buck, buy gift cards at discounted rates from online consumer-to-consumer markets specifically for offloading unwanted gift cards.
• Go Digital: Download shopping apps to your smartphone that will scan prices on any given item across the sites of major retailers. This is one of the easiest ways to score the best deals available shopping online without doing so much as lifting a finger.
• Buy Now, Pay Later: Like the shop now, pay later concept? Investigate your workplace benefits. Many voluntary benefits packages include services like Purchasing Power, a specialty e-retailer that gives workers the opportunity to shop thousands of products, buying brand name items now and make manageable payments over time on those items through payroll deductions. This can simplify the task of holiday budgeting.
“The holidays are one of the most expensive times of year, particularly when there’s travel involved or those wish-lists are stacked with big-ticket items,” says Elizabeth Halkos, chief operating officer for Purchasing Power, LLC. “This solution empowers you to pay over time right from your paycheck, while reducing your exposure to the pricey pitfalls associated with other payment options that include fees and interest.”
Ask your employer if an employee purchase program and other financial wellness benefits like PurchasingPower.com are available to you.
• Track Your Brands: Do you or your gift recipients have some favorite brands or stores? “Like” and follow these companies on social media for access to exclusive promotions and coupons.
• Set Limits: Consider instituting family-wide spending limits on gifts, or suggest a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. This can relieve both financial and social pressure associated with being the biggest spender. Spending limits can actually be more fun than they sound, encouraging gift-givers to get creative, artistic and resourceful.