Wednesday, December 19, 2007

1. Pay Cash: If you think that is old-fashioned, then you are sadly mistaken. Once you have made a budget for your gift giving, go to your bank and withdraw that amount in cash, in larger bills. Breaking a $100 bill instead of a $20 will probably make you think twice about the gift you are giving, and once you are out of money, you are done. If you plan on doing a lot of shopping online, try one of the prepaid debit cards that most banks offer and do the same.

2. Know your Interest Rates: If you know that you are going to have put Christmas purchases on your credit card, make sure you use the ones with the best terms and rates. If you can swing it, try to pay your balance in full each month to avoid service charges and accrued interest.

3. Keep it in Check: Make sure you keep a list of what you are spending. It is also important to break it down to what credit and debit cards you are putting the purchases on. This way when you start paying it off, you will know which cards have the highest rates and which ones you should start paying off first.

4. Have a Plan: Many people go way over budget when taking care of their holiday shopping. What’s worse is coming up with a target amount to spend, then going way past that. If you have a tendency to overspend, make a conscious effort to cut your spending by 20% and to pay off the majority of the balance by Valentine’s Day. By accomplishing this goal, you will feel better about yourself and will have an easier time cutting your budget by even more next year.

5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Set aside money throughout the year for tipping – everything from the paperboy to the trash collectors and random nieces and nephews. By setting the money aside earlier in the year, these gift expenses won’t cut into your December gift-giving budget.

6. Focus: Make a list of the stores you are going to go to and the gifts you are going to buy. Take a moment to look for the gifts online before you make an excursion to the mall. You may find you get a better deal shopping online than in the store. Also, specialty shops like ours offer more unique and personal gifts.

7. Something for Everyone: Giving gifts to every niece, nephew, in-law, etc., can get really expensive, and it’s hard to find the right gift for each individual. This year, why not try getting the families together to draw names out of a hat and get one nice present for the person you pick.

8. Get Creative: You could spend a million dollars on a gift that will mean nothing if not given from the heart. Some of the best gifts are actually free and if there are younger people reading this, offer babysitting services for a member of your family, or give them something that is more personal like a monogrammed piece of jewelry.

9. Keep Next Year in Mind: That’s right. You may not have gotten half or your shopping done yet, but you should keep in mind that you are going to be going through this all over again next year. So, be on the lookout and start saving for the next holiday season or start looking right after the holidays are over for the timeless gifts that will inevitably go on sale which will never go out of style

10. Hold on to Your Pennies: It may sound strange, but get a large jar and start putting all of your spare change in it – call it the Holiday Fund – and don’t cash it in until it is time to start your holiday shopping for next year. If you are diligent, you may be able to save almost $1000 for next season’s gift giving.