1. Pay cash. No, that’s not hopelessly old-fashioned. When you’re out of money, you’re out of money.
2. Know thy enemy. If you’re going to pay by credit card, use the one with the most favorable terms. That may sound obvious, but many people carry as many as five bank cards in their wallets and don’t always know what the interest rate is on each card.
3. Keep a running tally of your credit-card spending. When you come home from a day of shopping, immediately subtract what you’ve spent from your checking-account balance. Not only does that give you a visual record of how much you’ve spent, but also it ensures that you’ll have enough money in the account to pay the bill when it arrives.
4. Have a plan for paying off your bills. If you overspent last year, it’s time to cut back. But slashing your budget in half can be like trying to quit smoking cold turkey — it often doesn’t work. Instead, come up with a more realistic goal.
5. Get easy gifts out of the way early. Set aside money for cash gifts — to the paper boy, the babysitter, the hairdresser, out-of-town nephews — before Thanksgiving. That way those presents don’t have to come out of your December shopping budget.
6. Make a list. Don’t dismiss this advice as too simplistic. Writing down which stores you’ll visit and which gifts you plan to buy helps focus your shopping excursion and makes the chore more pleasant because you don’t get caught up in holiday hysteria.
7. Think outside the gift box. Plenty of alternatives are less expensive, and more fun, than buying a gift for everyone. Instead, have a family gift exchange in which you each choose one name and put more thought than money into selecting a single gift.
8. Be creative with the kids. Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World during winter break or spring vacation. Stuff the kids’ stockings with guidebooks, maps and Disney memorabilia, and let them plan their excursion. You’ll save money on holiday gifts, and they’ll enjoy weeks of pleasure without becoming bored.
9. Look ahead to next year. If you came up short on cash this year, start an old-fashioned holiday-club online savings account. You can easily set up an automatic transfer from your checking account each month, earn a competitive rate of interest, and have a tidy sum when next holiday season rolls around.
10. Enjoy! Don’t forget this holiday season is about showing the ones you love, just what they mean to you. Stay connected and plan ahead. Good luck out there holiday shoppers, from all of us at Bel Air Jewelry!