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Debt the Halls: How to avoid ringing up a holiday credit card hangover

Posted on Monday, December 11, 2017 at 9:32 am

(NerdWallet)
The holiday season is supposed to be about joy, giving and spending time with our favorite people. But you might pack on some extra debt, too.
On average, Americans plan to spend more than $550 on gifts for friends and loved ones this holiday season, according to a recent NerdWallet survey conducted by Harris Poll. But budgets are tight. Do you have that much to spend without running up your credit cards?
If you don’t have a holiday savings fund stashed away, smart planning and clever shopping can ensure you don’t end up struggling to pay off debt.

Avoiding the Post-Holiday Credit Card Blues

* Really set a budget: In the 2016 holiday season, nearly a quarter of Americans surveyed didn’t have a gift budget, according to the online Harris Poll of 2,135 U.S. adults conducted in October 2017. Figure out how much you can spend, and think beyond presents. Factor in other expenses — gift wrap, holiday cards and meals, to name a few.
* Limit your list: With your overall holiday budget in mind, decide whom to buy for. Your immediate family and close friends are probably nonnegotiable. But do you really need to get presents for all of your co-workers, neighbors and the Amazon delivery person?
“Give yourself the gift of a stress-free start to the year by not waking up to a bunch of credit card bills,” says Steve Branton, a certified financial planner in San Francisco.
“Once you know the amount you can actually spend without going into credit card debt and who you need to give a gift to, you can work back from there to determine who are the most important people, how much to spend on them.”