The holiday season is officially in full swing! People are out and about buying decorations, gifts, and food for various parties and family gatherings. While many of us find joy in this time of year, the one thing no one looks forward to is reviewing the bills in the aftermath of all their spending. The good news is you can avoid holiday debt this year if you plan ahead.

It might not be too fun thinking about finances and debt right now, but it’s much better than how you might feel if you overspend and see your credit card statement in January. For people planning to maintain good credit and dodge debt, preparing is essential. Here are some tips to help you avoid holiday debt as we move through December.

Decide on a spending limit

It’s very hard to stick to a budget around this time of year. Everywhere you look, gift ideas and decorations jump out at you, and even those with the most self-restraint find it hard to resist spending. However, it’s an important part of avoiding holiday debt. Overspending feels harmless in the moment, but not as much when the bills come in. To avoid that sinking feeling, decide on a firm spending limit for things like home decor and gifts. Chat with your friends and family about a price limit you can all agree on. You can also do a Secret Santa style of gift-giving to limit the need to spend as well. Christmas parties and other outings can make a dent in our budgets too, so be sure you plan for these expenses ahead of time. This way, you won’t be cringing later when you realize you spent money you weren’t planning on shelling out. Be sure to actually check in on your budget throughout the season too, to make sure you’re sticking to it!

Stay safe with online shopping

If you prefer to do your Christmas shopping online instead of having to brave the crowds in public, you’re not alone. People are increasingly turning to online retail for its convenience and accessibility, not to mention how the pandemic made it the only option for a long time. The only problem here is the potential risk to your online safety.

Hacking attempts and cyber attacks skyrocketed during the pandemic, when people were constantly typing their credit card information into various websites. Now, over the holiday season, is another prime time for those hackers to make their move. You don’t want to look over your credit card transactions and find there’s a charge for an item from a store you’ve never set foot in, but it happens more often than we might think. Trying to avoid holiday debt becomes more tricky when you’re suddenly having to deal with clearing out charges that aren’t yours. To stay safe, only use trusted browsers, which will have a lock symbol beside the URL in the search bar. This means they have higher security standards. Also, try not to connect to public wifi networks if you plan on doing any online shopping! Save your online spending sprees for your home’s private network.

Say no to new credit

Every store you go into this season will likely have its own credit card you can sign up for. This is already common in stores like Walmart year-round, but it seems most retail stores really pour on the pressure for customers to register this time of year. If you’re trying to avoid holiday debt, say no to these offers. As great as they may seem, with potential rewards and promises of big savings, you will be spending more than you will ever save. If you already have a credit card, it’s in your best interests to not add another one. As humans, the more opportunities we have to spend, the more we tend to spend. Do your best to decline these additional credit offerings to avoid debt!

Commit to making timely payments

You should make it a priority to always pay off your bills on time, but it becomes extra important this time of year. Most of us spend more over the holidays than any other time of year, so our credit card bills will be higher, meaning we will also owe more in interest. If you miss a payment, it will hurt a lot more right now than it would any other time of year. In the rush of the season, it’s easy to forget simple things like paying off credit card debt. You might want to consider setting up payment reminders, or automatic payments, so you won’t neglect your bills. Staying on top of your payments will keep your credit score high and help you avoid falling into debt.

Consider paying with cash

Even though shopping is all about paying with tap or buying online, cash still exists! You can pay for the majority of your purchases with cash this season if you plan to do in-person shopping. Handing over physical bills feels more “real” than paying with debit or credit, because you can see your money leaving you. This helps many people stop themselves from overspending. It also lets you track your spending much easier. Take out whatever amount of cash you’ve decided to use for your budget this season, and do your shopping this way.

Working to avoid holiday debt might not be the most fun part of this season. However, it will protect you from financial concerns down the road. When you have a strong budget and plan to maintain good credit and avoid overspending, you can enjoy the holidays much more. You can still have a great holiday season on a budget, as long as you prioritize your finances! 

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