How to stay out of credit card debt this holiday season
This time of year, extra chores like entertaining, shopping and wrapping can wear out the best of us. But if there’s one thing sure to spike our blood pressure, it’s falling into debt.
Elisabeth Leamy, consumer advocate for Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show, took a few moments to talk with us about ways to save money and avoid the January credit card blues.
The author of Save Big: Cut Your Top 5 Costs and Save Thousands, is also a spokeswoman for Citi, so it’s no surprise that her fist tip is to note that Citi consumer credit card members have access to a service that will find them the lowest price on most anything. Leamy also suggests shopping with a Cash Back card, which Citi offers.
But she also offered some general advice for those who simply want to stick to a budget.
“The real key to saving when you shop for the holidays is to layer multiple strategies on top of each other,” she says. Several sites, for instance, can tell you when you’re likely to get the best bargains for different categories. For instance, she notes, toys are best purchased in the middle of December.
And don’t settle just for a sale. Look for a coupon on top of that, and visit sites like ShopAtHome.com to find deals and Cash Back offers.
And these days, Leamy says, the deals might be online-only. “Like” companies on Facebook, and sign up for their newsletters and clubs online, and you’ll save even more.
What you don’t want to do, last-minute shoppers, is head out unprepared.
“I think planning is a big part of it,” she says. “People should be writing lists, and having a plan on who they’re going to buy for. Cherry-pick deals at different stores.”
While you shouldn’t sweat the little gifts, if the item is pricey enough, do your research and dig up details like return policies, which can vary widely from store to store.
And when you’re making a budget, don’t forget to include those hidden costs.
“People often forget the cost of entertaining during the holidays,” Leamy says. “Put that into your budget.”
She’s also a big fan of the after-holiday sales. It’s not a bad time to start looking for little gifts, like ornaments, that you can tuck away for the next holiday season.
“I keep a list all year round for the people I buy for,” she says. “I do buy gifts for people ahead of time. I think that’s a smart way to go, as long as you don’t spend a lot of money before and during the holidays.”
Because the bottom line, she notes, is that we all want as little stress as possible this time of year. “The real key is for people to feel comfortable with what they’re spending.”