Even though the holidays roll around at the same time every year, it’s easy to forget to plan for saving and holiday spending. Depending on your traditions, spending may increase around the holidays due to gifts, travel, and meals. While you may be getting a little creative this year as it is more difficult to meet in person, problems with debt may still increase around the holidays. So, what can you do if you haven’t set aside extra money throughout the year to prepare for holiday spending? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests these tips for enjoying the holidays without going into debt:
1. Figure out your monthly budget. This includes figuring out how much you typically spend per month on things like rent, utilities, and groceries. Then, figure out how much you have left over, which will help you decide how much you can afford to spend without going into debt.
2. Shop smarter. If you plan to go into a store, don’t bring credit cards. When possible, shop with cash and only bring the amount you plan to spend. This removes the temptation of using a credit card to spend more than you intended. Check for sales, compare prices, and track your spending to ensure you’re sticking to your plan. Keeping up with your spending plan is as important as ever since online purchases have risen this year, which has increased the need for credit and debit card use.
3. Be creative. If your tradition is to give gifts, homemade gifts can be meaningful and inexpensive! Check out Wayne County Extension’s website at wayne.osu.edu for easy homemade gift ideas.
Are you someone who likes giving or receiving gift cards? This year has shown that purchasing gift cards can help support businesses, even if the business isn’t physically open. If you can’t get to the store, check to see if the business sells online and if you can redeem the gift card through online purchases. If you plan to buy or receive a gift card, check out these tips adapted from the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
Buy gift cards from known and trusted sources. Avoid online auction sites because the cards sold there may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.
Read the gift card’s fine print before buying. Find out if there is a fee to buy the card or if there are shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online. The card must also clearly disclose its expiration date, and the card or packaging must clearly disclose any fees.
Before you buy retail gift cards, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. A card from a company that files for bankruptcy or goes out of business may be worth less than anticipated. A company that files for bankruptcy may honor its gift cards, or a competitor may accept the card. Call the company or its competitor to find out if they are redeeming the cards, or if they will do so at a later date.
A gift card can’t expire for at least five years after the date it was purchased or from the last date any additional money was loaded onto the card, but it’s a good idea to use a gift card before you misplace or forget about it.
Treat a gift card like cash and keep the original purchase receipt. Some issuers will not replace cards that are lost or stolen, while other issuers will, for a fee.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.