biggest shopping weekend
of the year may be over, but if you're like most folks, your
holiday spending has just begun. Before you let big-money purchases
blow your budget, keep in mind that there are some simple tips you
can follow to keep your spending under control.
A big time for spending money
After two tough years during the recession, early indications
suggest that shoppers are back in force.
) , for instance, reported a 40% surge in the number of customers
lined up at its flagship New York City store early Friday morning.
) also reported encouraging traffic on Black Friday, thanks largely
to big discounts.
In addition to the normal hordes of early morning shoppers over
Thanksgiving weekend, many people are taking advantage of the
convenience of online retail for their holiday shopping.
) reported that the volume of payments over its Paypal network rose
25% on Thanksgiving Day, and
) had good success in its attempt to export the Black Friday
tradition to Great Britain.
But even if you have your shopping done, you probably still have
plenty of costs left to cover. Rising airfares have helped boost
the bottom lines of
Delta Air Lines
) , but they mean more money out of your pocket if you have to
travel around Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. Add to that a
host of other miscellaneous year-end expenses, and it's easy to
understand how difficult it is to keep control of your money flow
during November and December.
What to do now
But even if things got a little out of hand over the weekend, it's
not too late to get a better hold on your wallet for the rest of
the season. Here's a three-step plan to get back on track for a
financially sustainable December:
1. Tally up the damage.
The worst mistake that shoppers make isn't that they
spend too much
. Even if your spending has already gone over the top, the worst
thing you could possibly do now is to close your eyes and stay in
denial about it.
It's hard to fess up to financial mistakes. But unless you take
a hard look at your financial condition and learn just how big a
problem you have, you can't take smart steps to dig yourself out of
the hole you're in. Conversely, once you know how much you owe,
it's a lot easier to figure out exactly how you'll get any debt
paid off and how much you really have left to spend for the rest of
2. Get real.
If you're over-budget already, you might be tempted simply to say
that you'll cut way back on the rest of your holiday expenses. But
as attractive as a cold-turkey spending freeze may look from a
money perspective, it's not realistic for most people.
Rather than setting yourself up for another failure if your
overly ambitious cost-cutting plans backfire on you, figure out
some fair estimates of how much you'll need to finish up your
holiday list. In the end, you may find you spend less this way than
you would if you backpedaled on bigger budget cuts.
3. Be smart about debt.
The most expensive way to finance your holiday season is with
high-interest credit cards
. Yet because cards are so convenient, many shoppers use them
almost exclusively -- and deal with the aftermath all the way until
holiday season rolls around.
If you're in this camp, do what you can to minimize your credit
card debt for the rest of the season, but also take steps to fix
things for next year. By setting a small amount of money aside from
every paycheck in a special savings account dedicated to the
holidays, you'll be able to accumulate enough money over the year
to make the 2011 holiday season a lot easier from a financial
Be careful out there
An improving economy is good news for the nation as a whole. But to
keep your own personal finances in good shape, you'll want to make
sure you don't let economic optimism get out of line. With the
right steps, you can keep a rein on your money, letting you enjoy
the holidays without the financial pain that so often comes
Spending too much over the holidays can sabotage your
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