Tips For Avoiding Consumer Debt Over the Holidays

Holidays are meant to be joyous occasions full of togetherness for friends and family.  However, holidays have also become synonymous with consumerism and marketing ploys are amped up to try to put your spending habits on overdrive. The holidays create an environment where extreme pressure is placed on the average citizen to spend well above their means and give the newest and best gifts to everyone on their family tree and neighborhood block. This pressure causes a lot of Americans to turn to credit cards when purchasing presents for their family and friends–spending money they don’t have.

Financing the holidays in this manner can lead to overwhelming credit card bills that take a long time to pay off–creating lasting memories of the holiday, but certainly not in a good way! Instead of getting yourself into consumer debt this holiday season, follow these simple steps:

1. Set the credit cards aside. When you bring your credit cards on shopping trips it can be extremely tempting to whip them out for purchases you hadn’t planned or gifts you can’t afford. When you’re venturing out to tackle holiday shopping leave the credit cards at home in a safe place.

2. Shop online. Often, websites like Amazon have far better deals than brick and mortar department stores. When you get an idea for a present, click around and see if there are any great deals online. When making a purchase use your debit card.

3. Stick to a budget. Check your finances and determine how much you can afford to spend per person on your shopping list. Plan your gifts around these numbers and don’t stray just because you find something you know they’ll love but  YOU can’t afford.

4. Buy presents with cash. Once you’ve established a budget, a great way to make sure you don’t go over is to take that money out in cash. You don’t need to do this all at once, but keep track! Once you’ve spent your allotted present-purchasing funds, the shopping is over.

5. Get crafty. Capitalize on your skills! Are you a great knitter, fabulous baker or craft extraordinaire? Buying supplies in bulk and making friends and family one of a kind gifts from scratch is a wonderful way to save money. They’re sure to appreciate gifts made especially for them more than a store bought doodad they could purchase themselves.

6. Save early. The most effective tip for avoiding holiday debt is prior planning. Set up a way to save money for the holidays all year round. Whether this is a special savings account or a shoe box in your closet, putting away $10-$50 each paycheck will add up quickly! This will also allow you to pull from these funds if you find a good deal  on a potential present at any point in the year (tuck it in the closet and give when appropriate–Aunt Jane will never know you purchased it in July!).

When the holidays sneak up on you it is easy to fall to the pressures of consumer debt but by keeping an eye on your finances and planning appropriately you can stay debt free this holiday season!

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Using the Internet to Better Manage Your Money!

The Internet is, without doubt, the most useful tool modern society has at its disposal. Aside from endless hours of entertainment watching people fall over on Youtube and catching up with celebrity gossip on Twitter, there are really, genuinely useful applications for the mammoth amount of information online and at our fingertips.

One such use for the Internet is in effective money management. There are forums, websites, blogs and even videos that can teach us little hints and tricks that will help us to budget better and keep our bank balances looking a little healthier. Here are three ways in which we feel the Internet can be put to best use in money management.

Money Saving!

Voucher codes – use forums, voucher code websites and blogs to find discount codes to save on your online purchases. But don’t stop there!

Price comparison – if you are going to make a purchase, it now takes just moments to find out where the best place to make that purchase is. Google Shopping and other purpose built sites will let you compare prices from across the web on almost any product you can think of!

Cashback – there are many cashback websites where, when you make certain purchases, the website will give you a certain amount of cash (based on affiliate or similar relationships they have with the retailer). So if you’re going to make a purchase anyway, you might as well do so through a cashback website!

Budgeting

No matter where in the world you live, you will be able to find budgeting spread sheets and hints tailored to you. You can even find tools that will help you to work out how much income you will receive after tax (based on tax in your own country). Use the search engines to find tools relevant to you and keep an eye on personal finance websites and forums for budgeting hints and tips. People love to share their own advice and this can be really beneficial.

Increasing Your Income

Freelancing – The Internet is home to several well populated and established freelance websites that enable you to make money out of any skill you have! Check them out, make some contacts and earn some money from home.

Selling – eBay springs to mind when thinking about making some money online. There are also websites that let you make and sell your own crafts and similar.

So step away from Youtube, click off Twitter and close down Facebook. It’s time to start putting the Internet to use in creating a healthier bank balance!

This post was a contributon by Aaron Hewitt, who is a personal finance blogger in the UK, specialising in debt management and IVA solutions.

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