The holiday lights are already twinkling! Time to set your gift buying budget!

The twinkle of holiday lights are starting to appear in stores already and for many people that means their debit or credit cards are also a tingle as it flexes its muscle for festive gift buying. As you anticipate your holiday gift purchases, it’s a great time to make a budget for what money you can afford and how you want it dispersed through friends and family.

With research showing that the average person adds almost $1,000 in holiday debt to their overall debt each year, it’s understandable that holiday purchases can put stress on your mind and your bank account. So how do you take control and minimize stress? Four simple steps.

Step 1 – Take a tough look at your financial dashboard. How much do you owe in credit cards and living costs? How much income are you expecting? If there’s more debt on your credit card than you can pay off in two months, then you should pull back on your expenditures. Looking at your income for November to January, what do you have left after paying more than the minimum on each card? How much are your living costs? This could be your budget for gift buying.

Step 2 – Assess your gift list. Can you replace expensive gifts with something more personal and meaningful? More and more people are treating their friends and family with experience-based gifts, such as house cleaning or a catered party at home that are affordable and enjoyable. Can little Tommy get buy with one toy and one new pair of shoes? Is all the extra just too much for him and your budget?

Step 3 – Now you have a gift list and approximate November/December/January budget, check one more time that it includes your living expenses. Rent, insurance, fuel, utilities and groceries still have to be paid through the holidays. Make sure you’re not falling behind on the basics in order to buy gifts that are more than what people expect or need. Be sure to subtract your total budget (basic living requirements + gift costs) from your expected income. Do they balance? Then you’ve got a plan and are ready to shop!

Step 4 – Research is smart and necessary when you’re shopping within a budget. Check different stores for best pricing…either online or in person. Retail is very competitive right now and you can often find deals in person that online stores are not offering. Take advantage of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday sales. The savings could be 25% or more!

Finally…enjoy the experience. If you’re stressed while shopping, that may be a sign that you know your budget is blowing up. A smart tip is to only use cash or debit. This way, you see the money come out of your account immediately..and there’s no sad January when your credit card bill comes in!

Your friends at Equity Credit Union are here for you through the holidays and beyond. Talk to us today if you have concerns.

Equity Credit Union…Where you belong.