Jeanette A. Tucker | 12/2/2005 2:59:19 AM
Most families don’t plan to run up high balances on their credit cards during the holidays, it just happens. Nearly one-third of adults say they spent more than they planned – often $100 to $500 more.
How can you control your holiday spending? LSU AgCenter family economics professor Dr. Jeanette Tucker says to start early by making a written plan for holiday spending and gift giving. Think about how much you can afford to spend for gifts as well as decorations, holiday meals and travel.
Set spending limits for gifts for each person as well as for other items in your spending plans, then begin looking for bargains. If it has been a tough year for you, think about cutting back on what you usually spend during the holidays.
Decide if you are going to use a credit card for holiday spending. If you decide to use only cash, leave your credit cards at home so you won’t be tempted. If you use checks or a debit card, be sure to record each purchase in your check register and figure the balance before writing another check.
If you plan to use a credit card, select just one to use for your holiday spending. It’s much easier to control your spending on one card than on three or four. Write your spending limit on an envelope and put it in your wallet. When you use your credit card, write the amount on the envelope and subtract it from your limit. When you have reached your limit, stop using your credit card! Keep the receipts in the envelope – this will be a convenient way to file receipts for those inevitable post-holiday returns.
Try to separate shopping trips from spending trips. Make one trip to compare prices and value, but don’t take along your checkbook or credit cards. Decide what you can afford to buy, then go back to make the purchases.
Once the holidays are over, your credit card company may offer to let you skip a payment or two. Or, it may invite you to pay back only the minimum or even reduce your minimum payment.
"Don’t be tempted to take these offers, since you will pay more in the long run," Tucker warns.
For information on related family economics topics, click on the links at the LSU AgCenter home page, at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.