How to minimize holiday credit card debt: 4 tips

Overspending during the holiday is almost an American tradition. In fact, people in the United States expect to spend about $184 billion on holiday gifts alone this year – and roughly 31% of them still haven’t paid off last year’s presents.

Excess debt can be stressful. If you’re already struggling with your finances, how can you get through the holiday shopping season without adding to your debt burden? Here are some tips:

Get real with your budget

List all the expenses you anticipate for the holiday season, from decorations and cards to wrapping paper and food for your feasts. Then, be realistic about what you can afford and start paring things down. Sticking to the final budget may be hard, but it can also keep your debts from growing.

Consider token gifts

It really is the thought that counts, so instead of buying your mom another gift basket, consider budget-friendly alternatives, like a scarf you’ve knitted or a framed photo of the two of you together. Those are more likely to be cherished for their sentiment and can convey your feelings better than something bought in a store.

Take advantage of discounts and sales

There really are some good sales and promotions happening right now, so look for deals, use coupons and be strategic with your shopping. If you can tolerate the stress of last-minute shopping, the markdowns can be remarkable.

Stick to cash

If you have a hard time with impulse buying, stay away from the internet and do all your shopping in person – in cash. Leave your credit cards at home. There’s a delayed “pain point” when you shop with credit, but actually watching the cash leave their wallet tends to make most people very conscious of their spending.

Sometimes, debts will pile up no matter how conservative you try to be with your finances. If you find yourself mulling over your financial situation this holiday season and you realize that your debts have become unmanageable, it may be time to consider other options, including bankruptcy.

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