Reducing Holiday Financial Stress

November 29, 2006 - Posted at 5:15 p.m. CST JONESBORO, AR -- Despite the flat economy, many shoppers are braving the stores...trying to "help out" Santa with his gift list.  But can you survive the season of giving with out breaking the bank?

With the holidays soon here many people are starting to feel the financial stress of the holiday season.  But you can lessen that anxiety by planning a few of your purchases in advance.

Timing sales can help you find the best bargains and don't be afraid to dig through the clearance rack to find a deal and smart shoppers start early.

"One of the things you can do is make a list of who you are going to buy for and what you are going to buy and what you intend to spend for that.  then just try to keep that list and stay with it, that way you won't be too tempted to do much of the impulsive," said Craighead County Extension Agent Debbie DeRossitte.

Changing up the family gatherings can help you save a buck or two.

"One tradition is to buy ornaments for the other family for their tree that they can keep for year to year and these are less expensive things to do," said DeRossitte.

And if you are looking to cut can start in cyber space.

"A lot of people are sending email instead of cards and saving on the postage as well as the time it takes to address envelopes," said DeRossitte.

A donation in someone's name to a local charity often leaves a lasting impression...and it's a gift that keeps on giving.  But if you're not sure exactly what they want...just hang on to the receipt.

"So you might carry an envelope in your handbag or in the car that is brightly colored has Christmas receipts in it, that way you will be able to exchange those receipts if you need too," said DeRossitte.

Consider the following tips for a more enjoyable holiday season:

  • Make a list of the people you will need to buy for and how much you plan on spending for each person.
  • Determine how much in total you plan on spending, and if this figure seems too high, make adjustments in your planned purchases.
  • Try to avoid the temptation of paying for all of your purchases with a credit card when you do not have the money to pay it off.  Avoid thinking that you'll just "pay it off later." If you cannot afford a particular item, look for something similar but less expensive or search for an alternative present. Set a limit and try to stick to it.
  • Be wary with department store promotions. Offers of "buy now and pay later" sometimes have hidden clauses that allow interest to accrue until your first payment. Read through all paperwork before signing it, and do not be afraid to ask the store clerk questions regarding the promotion. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be creative with your gifts. Try making homemade items or give personalized gifts offering your services for things such as an evening of free babysitting.
  • A donation to a local charity may make more of a lasting impression than a store-bought gift. Use money that you would have spent on friends and family to make one larger donation to one specific charity or give smaller donations to each family member's favorite charity. Call local food pantries, shelters and charities to find out what they need during the busy holiday season. For some tips on giving to charities log onto
  • If you're hosting a family dinner, ask others to bring a dish.
  • Pay attention to return policies for items you purchased.
  • Keep your receipts. If you need to return something later, having your receipt will speed up the process and you will have a better chance of getting your money back.
  • Shop alone. A tired spouse or child may encourage you to impulsively buy some items so they could get home sooner.
  • Avoid high pressure sales tactics. Know what you're looking for before you enter a store or tell the sales clerk that you are looking and will let them know if you need help with something.
  • Search through clearance racks for sale items. Shop at discount stores for gifts for children, neighbors, and co-workers.
  • Don't wait for the last minute to do your shopping. You may be more tempted to purchase higher priced items if you are in a hurry or don't have time to comparison shop. If you spread your shopping out over several weeks/months, you won't have to come up with so much money at once.
  • After the holiday season, start saving for the next one. Put aside a little each month or look for sale items through the year that could be saved for the holiday season.