5 Tips to Get Ahead of Holiday Debt

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The holiday season is fast approaching, and most people find themselves spending a little – or a lot – more than usual during these festive final months of the year.

Americans spend more than $1,450 each year on holiday-related purchases – from gifts and travel to decorations and entertainment. These costs layered into your monthly expenses can significantly strain your budget.

You don’t have to break the bank to celebrate the season. Smart planning can get you ahead of the holidays and leave you with funds for merrymaking the way you want. Consider these five tips to minimize holiday debt.

Save, save, save  While solid advice for any time of year, it can take on more importance during the holidays. One way to save is to set up a separate savings account for holiday expenses. Start saving at the beginning of the year, and vow not to withdraw any money until it’s time for holiday shopping.

Make your holiday plans now

Set guidelines for your holiday spending. Make a list of your expected holiday expenses and estimate the costs to see if they fit into your overall budget. Adjust your list as needed.

Build a holiday budget—then stick to it
Once you’ve made your list, commit to staying within your budget. With so much pressure surrounding gift-giving, it’s easy to spend more than you planned. Shop online to ensure you’re getting the best deal, or search for coupons and deals to help lower costs. Get family and friends on board with your plans by suggesting a gift swap instead of buying gifts for everyone; opt for handmade gifts or even pitch in for a group gift. If you’re hosting a holiday dinner, shop in bulk for food items.

Scope out major deal days
In addition to the deal-hunting tips above, take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Look up retailers’ deals ahead of time to see if you find goods and services you planned to purchase anyway at lower prices. Many retailers start big holiday sales as soon as Nov. 1, so do some homework now on the gifts you have your eye on so you can spot and take advantage of online and in-person deals before the holiday rush.

Pick up a short-term gig
Even the best-laid budget plans can still fall short of your available funds. If your schedule allows it, take on a temporary job to bring in some extra income. Many retail or dining establishments need additional workers to handle the holiday rush, and demand often increases for ride-booking and delivery services as well. Or take up a side hustle selling crafts for example.

These are just a few ways to help you get a handle on holiday debt, but there’s so much more that savvy consumers can do to save. See if your credit cards have special offers at your favorite stores or for your favorite purchases, and look for special cash back deals. Be flexible and keep an open mind in general – if you can’t get a good deal on the gifts you originally planned to buy, see if any of the special offers you qualify for might be good substitutes.

The bottom line

Putting financial parameters in place can help you feel more confident and less stressed about your holiday spending. Have fun with your planning, saving and budgeting – it’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit early.

To learn more about budgeting, visit chase.com/financialgoals.