Bring Black Back (to your bank account)

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Black is making a comeback – even for those sale snatching shoppers out early this morning (and late last night). Here at Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), we want you to have a happy holiday season, free from the financial stress that can accompany traveling, shopping, and overspending.

Check out these tips to keep your budget in the black this year:

  • Send your holiday greeting cards and newsletters through email. It’s free!
  • Consider homemade gifts or give your time and talents as a gift. Offer to shovel an elderly relative’s driveway during the winter months or babysit free of charge.
  • Split the cost of travel or expensive gifts with friends and family.
  • Shop with cash. Leave debit and credit cards, along with your checkbook, at home. When your cash is gone, you will not be able to overspend.
  • If you need to use a credit card, set a limit for yourself. Use one, low-interest card and only spend what you are able to pay off within 3 months.
  • Buy only what is on your list. Avoid the temptation to buy huge markdowns and great deals if your shopping list is complete. Better yet, avoid the mall when your list is finished!
  • Decline charge card offers just to save that extra 10%. Opening and quickly closing accounts can negatively impact your credit history.
  • Online shopping has pros and cons. You can avoid the crowd and find things not sold in your local stores. However, prices are often higher and shipping fees can add up. Take advantage of free shipping offers and try to price shop before clicking the “checkout” button.
  • Discover free and low-cost holiday entertainment. Parades, ice skating, cookie decorating, light shows, and snowman building are great, affordable family activities.
  • Gifts are not the only expense we have during this time of year. Remember to budget for decorations, food, travel costs, holiday parties, wrapping paper, postage, and donations.

After surviving ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, there’s no time like the present to set up your savings plan for next year’s holiday season:

  • Consider joining a savings club at your bank or credit union. Set aside a specific amount from each paycheck all year long. When Black Friday 2013 comes around, your holiday spending cash will be waiting for you!
  • Shop for gifts all year long. You can find great deals the day after Christmas (and even Memorial Day weekend!). Avoid the rush, crowds, and stress by shopping in advance.
  • Large families may want to consider drawing names. This cuts expenses for everyone and can be a fun new tradition. Discuss this as a possibility for next year with your family. Make it a secret drawing for some extra fun!
From all of us at Lutheran Social Services Consumer Credit Counseling Service, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and a joy-filled holiday season!

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