The holiday season may seem far off today, but those looking to have a stress-free December can take steps in November that will ensure they aren’t left with unmanageable debt come January.
Though we all want to be responsible with our money there’s no denying the temptation to overspend during the holidays. From parties to gift giving, the season can be as expensive as it is joyous.
“People have this passionate need to buy gifts regardless of where their current financial situation stands,” explained Kevin Silver, the managing director of Magical Credit Inc. “People don’t always plan out their holiday spending and budgets, they just have this burning need to buy presents, and so they’ll put themselves in a financially dire situation in order to get what they need for the holidays.”
Silver adds that it’s difficult to enjoy the holidays knowing that January will bring unmanageable debt. Instead he recommends 10 ways to enjoy the holidays to their fullest without being greeted by unmanageable debt in the New Year.
1) Admit You Have a Problem
Like a 12-step program, the first step in managing holiday debt is assessing your current financial standing, anticipating your holiday spending needs, and admitting when you have a problem. “You need to sit down with a pen and paper or at your computer, understand what your income is, understand what your costs are, and try to gauge how much you’re going to spend [over the holidays],” said Silver.
2) Budget Accordingly
The best way to avoid unmanageable holiday debt is to create a realistic budget and stick to it. Consider what you want to spend, what your current budget can afford, and how you can best make up the gap. “Even if you need to borrow for those extra costs, see what’s affordable and how much you need to set aside for the holidays,” said Silver.
3) Earn Extra Cash Where Possible
If your budget doesn’t quite match your spending needs consider working overtime or taking on a second job before the season begins. “You might be a bit more tired at the end of the day, but you’ll be a lot more relaxed and at ease and able to enjoy the holidays, because you won’t be as concerned and bogged down by the financial burden afterwards,” said Silver.
4) Make Some Sacrifices Early
While the holiday season brings a temptation to overspend the pre-holiday season is the perfect time to start cutting out unnecessary costs. For example, it’s often easier to trim a food, alcohol and entertainment budget in November than it is in December. “Try to reduce your extra entertainment costs and nonessential costs right now,” said Silver. “Even if you just cut it down for a month or so, you’ll notice the extra cash that’s available for your holiday spending.”
5) Do it Yourself
Tempting as it may be to only give our loved ones the latest and greatest, Silver believes do-it-yourself gifts often feel more personal, and rarely cost much, if anything, to make. “Lots of people have artistic or other talents, and you can utilize those talents to make your gifts more personal to maintain that holiday spirit without putting yourself in a financially devastating situation after,” he said.
6) Shop Early
Those looking to buy their gifts rather than make them, however, should consider starting their holiday shopping early. Silver explains that online retailers typically offer significant discounts for those that place orders well in advance of the holiday season. “It might take four to six weeks to deliver, but if you order these gifts now they’ll arrive in time for the holiday season and cost much less,” he said.
7) Borrow Wisely
For those that need to take on a little bit of debt in order to tackle their holiday shopping list, Silver says there are ways to do it that can put borrowers in a better financial situation come January.
“People focus a lot on interest rates, but you also want to focus on the debt-to-income ratio of your payback,” he said. “At Magical Credit we offer loans of up to five years if you have an employee income, so it’s more affordable to make the payback over a longer period of time, because the payments are lower.”
8) Use Holiday Debt to Improve Your Credit
Those that need to borrow this holiday season can give themselves the gift of a better credit score by choosing a lender that reports their activity. “At Magical Credit we do report to the credit bureau, so in addition to you having the finances you need to support your holiday budget, it will help you improve your credit in the long run,” said Silver.
9) Beware of Fraud
The holiday season isn’t only the busiest time of year for consumers, but also fraudsters. In fact, studies have found that fraud attempts increase by as much as 30% in December, and borrowers are often a key target.
“Read reviews; that’s the first thing anybody should do when deciding whether or not to go ahead with a lending company,” said Silver. “Also, always remember that a legitimate company will never ask for funds upfront, period. No exceptions. If they ask for a security fee or any funds down, just hang up the phone.”
10) Don’t Let Finances Ruin Your Holiday Season
It can be hard to have a happy holiday season when you’ve got debt, budgets and financial burdens on the mind. Put yourself at ease by budgeting appropriately, saving early, spending wisely and only borrowing from a trustworthy lender. “We can help customers bypass those fraud risks online, because the ultimate goal is to have a good time over the holidays and not lot finances destroy it for you,” said Silver.