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Letters to Santa
Give your credit card and your mind a holiday by limiting what you buy to what can safely come out of your bank account. Use this opportunity to create or get your budget into fighting shape, and use it to decide how much money you can afford to spend. Holiday budgeting is a way to set limits on your purchases and still enjoy the season. It can help to set up a budget and limits that you will stick to—without caving in and racking up the credit.
Mom and dad (or other far-away family and friends) might love nothing more than a visit from you, although in 2021 that may not be the most practical idea due to the pandemic. Another idea? Writing up a "free night of babysitting" card for your family members with young children, or "good for a home-cooked meal" certificate for your aunt that can be used when the time is right.
Santa has to buy presents for the whole world, but you don't. If your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, cut down on the number of people on your present list.
Get over the how-am-I-going-to-pay-off-my-credit- cards-next-month anxiety by giving yourself the gift of developing new-and-improved spending habits. For example, for every dollar you spend on gifts, you could find a way to remove that dollar from your regular spending.
Your older brother paid off his student loans five years ago, and he always gets you the fanciest presents. However, if you are in a different place in your financial life, you shouldn't follow suit. If you have any doubts as to whether those on your list will appreciate the less expensive presents you buy them, think back to what your friends and family gave to you when their budgets were tighter. There's no doubt that you'll both be better friends in the new year if you're not creating debt loads for each other this year.
A small, thoughtful gift is worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use. Avoid impulses to shop at trendy stores and start the holiday by taking a moment to think about what those on your list could really use. For example, if your sister loves to bake but can't get the hang of homemade pie crusts, you could buy her a simple pastry-making tool for less than $10 and include a copy of a fool-proof recipe.
Sales aren't the only way to get great deals on the gifts you want for your friends or family. Before you shop online, perform a quick web search for coupon codes for your favorite online stores. Before you shop in local stores, comb through the coupons you received in your mailbox. While you search through the flyers, make sure to comparison shop for the item you're interested in. Savings can happen just by keeping your eyes peeled for deals.
Your friends probably struggle with overspending as much as you do over the holidays. Give them the relief of forgoing buying gifts for you by organizing a group volunteer day instead. It's possible to volunteer virtually, too—which may be the best choice until the pandemic cools down. You'll come out of the day feeling proud of your efforts rather than suffering from buyer's remorse, and anyone can benefit from volunteering.
Don't let your debt become the Grinch that robs the fun from your holiday season. Base your gift buying on sentiment rather than dollar value and avoid giving yourself a year-round debt headache.
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