3 Common Holiday Spending Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them
Ho-ho-holy bank account statement!
Christmas is about faith, food, family, and friends. But between the yards of tinsel and platters of Christmas cookies, there's also a good chance you're spending more money during this time of year.
Regardless of your personal shopping budget, everybody can benefit from a refresher course on how to spend smartly over the holidays. Below, we tapped Matt Schulz, Chief Industry Analyst at CompareCards, a comprehensive credit card comparison website from the folks at LendingTree, for three common mistakes people make over the Christmas season. Read on, and learn how to prevent them from happening to you.
Mistake #1: Getting a store credit card.
A huge no-no for most if you're looking to save money in the long-term. "If you can't pay your balance in full at the end of the month, a store credit card isn't for you, period. The average interest rate for one of these cards is almost 25%, way higher than your typical general-purpose credit card. Sure, the retailer might offer you a one-time discount or some other type of perk, but the truth is that if you carry a balance, the interest you pay can outweigh any perk you might receive," Schulz explains. "If you are interested in the card, say no when it is offered to you, but go ahead and ask for a brochure. Then, go home and read up on the card. If the offer still sounds good after you learn more, apply for the card the next time you're in the store. Chances are all the same perks will still apply, and you'll be making a much more informed decision." (For more information on store credit cards, check out ComapreCards.com's report here).
Mistake #2: Failing to plan ahead.
"Santa is always making a list and checking it twice, and so should you. If you take time in advance to determine who you'll be shopping and what you'd like to get them, it can completely change the mindset behind your shopping trip. Instead of going to a store or visiting a website just hoping to find something, you become a person on a mission," offers Schulz. For some gift buying inspiration, check out Christmas Gifts Under $10 (That Don't Look Cheap), or, better yet, tackle some of these 20 DIY Christmas Gifts Anyone Would Be Excited to Open.
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Mistake #3: Not cutting yourself some slack.
"In one of our recent surveys, two-thirds of Americans said that shopping is the most stressful part of the holiday season and it is easy to understand why. We all have to-do lists that are a mile-long. We all have ball games or recitals to take kids to, family visits to plan, job commitments to honor. Holiday shopping can feel like just another to-do item that sucks all the joy out of the holiday season. It doesn't have to be that way, though," concedes Schulz. "Give yourself a break and understand that if that light display doesn't get put up, the world won't end. If you can't afford to get that perfect gift for your friend or relative this year, they're not going to hate you. (They may even be relieved because they're in the same position you are.) And if you do end up going off the rails a little bit, don't beat yourself up about it. A holiday budget is like a diet. It's going to get broken some times, and that's OK. Just be careful not to do it too often or in too big a way."
At the end of the day, keep in mind that the holidays are about the moments spent with loved ones that we'll cherish for the rest of our lives — and not the $15 gift wrap we maybe, definitely shouldn't have splurged on.