Keep Santa at the chimney and debts off the doormat
Written by: Phil Mulkins, World Action Line Editors
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education — an award-winning nonprofit group that educates economizers, savers and credit-users — warns that emotions run high this time of year, often clouding judgments and financial horizons.
Write out a plan for holiday spending and gift giving. Include possible gifts, dollar limits and alternate choices for each person on your list and start looking for bargains early. Contact distant relatives and let them know you're cutting back this year and want them to, also. Shrink your holiday gift list. Talk to those you exchange gifts with and suggest not exchanging gifts or setting much lower dollar limits on gifts.
Separate shopping trips from spending trips: Window-shop for prices, quality and value but don't take cash, credit cards or checkbooks with you. Watch sale fliers for items you intend to purchase. Ask retailers when items you want are coming on sale. Most retailers will tell you sale dates because they don't want to lose you to the competition.
Spend cash and avoid using credit cards, as they promote indiscriminate spending. Credit card users often say they have not kept track of how much they spent holiday shopping but found out only in January and February when the bills arrived. Credit cards carry an embedded message: SPEND!
Even writing checks or using ATMs can
get out of hand — especially when you don't record the check and ATM amounts or calculate the balance remaining after the purchase. It often results in overspending, and "insufficient funds" bank charges.
Give gifts to adults on New Year's Day — after taking advantage of post-Christmas sales. Consider gifts that don't cost a lot of out-of-pocket money. Give your time — to a young family needing baby-sitting, singles who need laundry or shirt-ironing certificates, senior citizens who would enjoy bimonthly sight-seeing outings, etc.
Take a part-time, holiday-season job working for a department store or other major retailer for extra cash, employee discounts and insider information on planned sales.
At office parties and other holiday functions, suggest that instead of gifts, people bring canned food for the homeless or disadvantaged.
Save on holiday greeting cards and postage by sending cards only to those in your life you won't see over the holidays. Make gifts such as freshly baked bread, cookies, desserts, etc. Also give artwork, crafts, needlework or photograph collages.
Gift wrapping and incidentals are costly: Give a card with a photo of the gift inside and the unwrapped gift, or use newspapers, magazines, grocery and shopping bags as gift wrap or reusable gift boxes.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 699-8888 or by e-mailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by U.S. mailing it to Tulsa World Consumer, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.