Football has begun, the leaves are changing, and the kids are back in school. Clearly, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas.
Some of you are reading this on your phone while waiting in line at Starbucks to buy your first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, but it’s time to start thinking of peppermint mochas instead.
Even if you’re the “Bah, Humbug” type of person, making financial plans for the holiday is still a good idea. Below are answers to questions that you might be contemplating while drinking your Pumpkin Spice Latte.
How much will I be spending on the holidays this year?
Overall, Americans spent about $600 billion on Christmas last year, which comes out to around $2,000 per person. This includes decorations, hams, ugly sweaters, and whatever else you tend to buy.
That’s a lot of money.
Decide on a realistic budget now and start setting aside the funds needed to ensure you don’t overspend during the holidays.
Why are we even talking about that money now? It’s not even Halloween!
Halloween is exactly why we should make plans now. American spending on Halloween has spiked. Last year, we spent about $7 billion on Halloween, including $350 million on costumes for our pets! It’s easy to overspend in October and let that lead into an indulgent Thanksgiving in November. When that happens, we find ourselves putting all our Christmas spending onto a high-interest-rate credit card.
Planning ahead is a necessary step to prevent you from a holiday hangover in the New Year.
How bad is it to put Christmas on a credit card?
It might be worse than you think.
It will cost you about $200 per month to pay off an average Christmas debt in time for next year if you are using a typical high-interest credit card, especially those store credit cards offered so often at this time of year..
And if you don’t pay it off by next year, you’re suddenly trying to pay off two holidays at once. That’s bad news. Even if you think you can handle the extra debt load, remember that if the Fed raises rates you can expect your credit card bill to go up as well.
On top of all that, paying around $400 in interest charges and fees over the course of the year is still $400 you could have kept in your account.
Is it too late to get ahead for this year?
Not at all. You have a lot of options to save yourself from your own spending. You can sign up for a Holiday Savings account, or a money market account. If you do plan on putting some holiday spending on a credit card, or applying for a personal loan to help with your presents, be sure you are using a low-interest credit card or loan, and have a plan to get them paid off before the next holiday.
Remember that holiday spending doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can combine savings, credit cards and budgeting to attack the holiday from several angles. Start now and by Christmas you’ll have a variety of options to keep your holiday budget on track.
The bottom line: If you start planning ahead, you can keep your holiday spending from being an obstacle to your financial future. For more information about setting up a holiday savings accounts or questions about other savings options, contact us today.
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