Though many of us look forward to the holidays and the chance to reconnect with loved ones and spread some joy, it's hard to ignore the fact that they're a very expensive prospect -- so much so, in fact, that last year, the average American wound up over $1,000 in debt because of them. If you'd rather avoid that fate this year, here are a few moves you should make.
1. Create a budget beforehand
Many people rack up holiday debt because they're unaware of how much they can actually afford to spend on gifts and gatherings. That's why it's smart to create a holiday budget that helps you arrive at a total spending figure. To do so, list your anticipated holiday expenses, from cards to candy to travels, and compare that total to the amount of money you'll have available from your paychecks after paying your regular bills. If the numbers don't align, you'll need to come up with a plan that doesn't involve charging up a storm on your credit card. That could mean cutting back on holiday purchases, using some money from your savings account, or finding a way to temporarily boost your income, which brings us to our next point...
2. Get a side hustle
When you work a regular job, the last thing you want to do with what should be your downtime is work some more. But if you're eager to avoid debt this holiday season and aren't confident your regular earnings can pay for all of your expenses, then a side hustle might be the way to go. The good news is that snagging part-time work is often easier during the holidays, when local businesses tend to need more hands on deck. And if you're willing to put in just a few hours a week on a short-term basis, you might scrounge up just enough cash to cover your holiday expenses.
3. Stick to a shopping list
Shopping during the holidays can be overwhelming, what with the word "sale" smacking you in the face everywhere you go. But the more so-called deals you're tempted by, the more likely you are to overspend and bust your budget in the process. A better bet? Each time you head out to do some shopping, create a physical list and pledge to stick to it. Having the items you need spelled out in writing might jog your brain into staying on course and avoiding impulse purchases.
4. Shop only with cash
There are plenty of benefits to shopping with credit cards, but one major drawback is that doing so gives you more flexibility with how much you spend. If you want to avoid hemorrhaging money this holiday season, ditch the plastic and pay only with cash. Not only that, but each time you head out to a given store, take only enough money with you to cover the items you're planning on buying. After all, you can't overspend if you don't have a way of paying for extras.
It's easy to fall victim to holiday debt despite your best intentions, but doing so could not only cost you money, but create a stressful start to the new year. To avoid that fate, set a budget, get a side job if you need extra cash, shop with a list, and eliminate the possibility of buying items you weren't planning on in the first place. With any luck, doing these things will help you survive the holidays with your finances well intact.