The crunch is on. With a few days to Christmas, too many shoppers are in panic mode and throwing the budget out the window. If it’s happening to you, stop, take a deep breath and take back control.
Even those who manage to keep a lid on Christmas shopping during the early days of the shopping season sometimes find the temptations too much in the final days leading up to Dec. 25, credit counselors say.
Merchants —literally— bank on it. They offer last-minute bargains designed to bring the shopping throngs through their doors. Free photos with Santa, holiday food samples, special in-store events, buy-one-get-one-free deals are all crafted with the buyer —and his wallet—in mind. Keep firmly in mind that nothing is a bargain if you can’t afford it. Keep your Christmas shopping budget in mind.
Experts offer several strategies to help you avoid temptations during the final days of the annual frenzy.
Stick with the budget you made to begin your shopping spree. Avoid the temptation to add to your list or fudge a little on what you planned to spend for each recipient. Trying to be Santa to too many is a sure-fire budget-buster. Be a friend all year round instead. Biting off more than you can reasonably chew is a sure way to take the ho-ho-ho out of the holidays.
If last-gasp gift requirements do pop up, consider gift cards. They’re more convenient and less time-consuming than looking for bargains. The longer you spend in a place of merchandising, the greater the temptations become. If you go, have specific items in mind, find them, pay for them and go home. Browsing only gives you time to weaken.
Remember that groceries are part of the equation. The come-ons in the grocery aisles can be as tempting as those in other stores. Plan what you want to offer family and friends and stick with it. A cupboard full of crackers is not a particularly good Christmas leftover.
Shift your focus to other things. Avoid the stores. Think of places to go to celebrate the season without the urge to lay out cash, checks or the plastic. Remember for whom the till tolls. It tolls for you. Find some good entertainment that doesn’t involve walking through a mall. Or throw on the holiday music and spend some feet-up time. Contemplate the good things about the season, spending aside.
Avoid credit cards. Leave them home if you are venturing out. In extreme cases, have someone you trust put them away for the duration.
Communicate, even if it is belatedly. If the first 11 months of the year were tough, leaving your Christmas budget on the thin side, say so. Share your situation with relevant family members. Look for unique gifts that won’t break the bank. A little of your time may be more appreciated than a lot of your money. Chances are that if you talk with others, you’ll find they are hoping to cut back on their Christmas outlay too.
Use some of the time you are saving by avoiding the stores to look ahead to next year. Plan in advance to keep expectations reasonable and to make the season fit your situation. Plant firmly in your mind this year’s temptations for last-minute spending and recognize it when the same thing happens next year.