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Thanksgiving and Christmas people are going to spend $121.4 billion
using their credit cards!
The key is not to let this debt
stick. Don't allow yourself to get buried by that debt or spend the next year paying off the purchases from this holiday
How are you going to pay for the
Credit cards of course! I'm sure many people are going to
criticize me for even suggesting such an idea.
I can hear it now, "Scott, are
you crazy? Don't use your credit cards, USE CASH! I thought you were
the anti-credit-card guy?"
I'm not the
"anti-credit-card guy," I'm the DebtSmart® guy. It's not the
credit spending that's going to put you into debt. It's the
If you're going to spend $1,000, then
it doesn't matter what you actually use to pay that $1,000. You can
use cash, credit, or gold bullion. Once it's spent, it's gone!
The key is to be smart about how you
pay, and using your credit cards is very smart. There are many good reasons
to use your credit card for shopping. Here are a few:
(ability to do chargebacks)
warranties (on some cards)
||If your cash is
stolen, it's gone! If your credit card is stolen, and you report it
right away, you don't lose any money (or at least a
||You may be able to
get additional discounts.
||Rewards such as
rebates and other perks.
What keeps you out of trouble is that
you stick to a plan. If, for example, you plan to spend $100 on a
television and end up spending $200 only because you can use a credit card--you'll be heading for trouble.
Over the years I've been following a
few easy steps that have helped me enjoy the holiday season without
having to worry about its cost. It's my hope these suggestions can
also help save you money as well.
1) Decide how much you can afford to
This is clearly the most important step. Before heading to
the store, you must know the total amount you can afford to spend.
The total spending for all gifts.
The average amount people spend is
around $1,000. That also falls right in line with the response from
DebtSmart readers who participated in our survey on 10/24/01.
It's not the amount you spend that
counts. It's just important to know your holiday spending limit.
When thinking about your limit, keep
in mind how much you would pay if you were going to use cash. In
other words, how
much money can you have available to pay for this holiday's spending when
the bill arrives in January?
2) Make list and stick to it.
that you have a dollar limit in mind, you can start to make your
list. Larissa and I have been using an Excel spreadsheet to help with our list.
I created a shareware version of
this spreadsheet for your use. You can get it by clicking here.
Feel free to distribute the
spreadsheet to your friends and family to help them plan a holiday
The spreadsheet lists everyone on our
gift list. It shows the person, gift, and cost. The
"Star" column indicates if the person still needs a gift.
If there is a star by their name, then their gift has been purchased. Once you enter a number in the cost column, the star
Enter everyone into the worksheet. If you don't have Excel, simply create a list by hand, and estimate
how much you want to spend for each person by entering a dollar figure
in the "Estimate" column.
After you're done with these estimates,
check the estimate total. That total should not exceed your original
holiday spending limit. If it does, you'll need to go back and make
some adjustments. Refer to your detailed estimate list
while shopping, stick to the numbers, and you'll be sure
not to go over your original holiday-spending limit.
Revise the list yearly and
make a printout. Carry that printout around starting in
September just in case you find something on sale that will make a
great holiday gift.
3) Contact your creditors for
This is the best time of the year to make your credit card banks beg
for your business! Many people feel at the mercy of their banks, but
that's not the case. The banks are at our mercy.
Give each bank a call and let them
know that they're going to have to give you a deal or you won't use
their card this year. Tell them you want 0% for 6 months on
purchases or else you'll use another card that will give you that
deal. See what happens; you have nothing to lose and you know the
rest of this beaten cliché.
I find that 50% of the time, I'm able
to strike a deal with one of my credit card banks. If they don't, then
I simply use another card!
Give them a call right now!
4) Take advantage of department store
card incentives and then transfer the balances.
Again, I hear people saying I'm
crazy for using a high-rate department store card! And again, I say
that you just need to be smart about doing it.
Every year I get offers from many
department stores for discounts if I use their card--discounts that
are 10%, 15%, or more!
I do use these discounts. However, I
make sure I transfer my balance from the high-rate department store card
to a lower-rate credit card before any interest is charged. This
way I can take advantage of the discounts plus get low-cost
5) Pay off the card in full when the
bill arrives (if possible).
Ideally, you should pay off all credit
card charges, in full, when the bills arrive. If you stick to your
plan, then you'd have spent within the holiday-spending limit.
limit should be based on how much money you'll have when the bills arrive.
So, in theory, it will be easy to pay
everything off right away. Of course, this doesn't always happen,
for many reasons.
That's why it's important to use a
credit card that's going to give you a few months with no interest
on purchases. This way, if something does delay your ability to pay
in full right away, you can have a little time, at no additional
cost, to pay off those charges.
Is it worth all the work?
Yes, indeed! Say you spend 3 hours of
your time juggling all the transactions, doing the balance transfers,
and calling your banks. Most likely you're going to save at
least $60 by being DebtSmart. So that's $20 per hour!
Is it worth $20 per hour?
I think so.