Don’t look now, but Christmas Day is coming up in just a little more than three months. It’s estimated that about one-third of all Americans will spend more than $1,000 on Christmas gifts, about 25 percent are slated to spend between $500 and $1,000, about 30 percent are expected to spend up to $500 and a measly 3 percent are slated to spend less than $100.
You know what this all means, right? It means with Black Friday and the holiday shopping season right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to kick your finances into shape. Failure to do so and keeping up with your regular spending habits could cause you to begin 2020 in credit card debt, and this may adversely impact your credit score.
So, what can you do now to make sure you’re not racking up credit card debt this November and December? Here’s a closer look at some smart money moves you can make to set yourself up for a financially successful 2019 holiday season:
- Book any travel early: The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, and periods around Christmas and New Years aren’t exactly slow either, with people flooding airports, train stations and rental car lots to see family and friends around the holidays. If you’re planning on traveling this holiday season, we’ve got two words for you: book early. That’s right, try to have any travel arrangements booked by Halloween, as prices tend to spike once the calendar turns to November. Furthermore, if your travel is flexible, use this to your advantage. For example, flying on the Monday before Thanksgiving is about 20 percent cheaper than flying on the day before the holiday. Book early, get creative and make your money go further.
- Start shopping now: Don’t procrastinate when it comes to your holiday shopping. Starting early won’t just ensure that there’s still viable inventory on store shelves, but it can also save you money and help you better budget your holiday spending by spreading it out over several months rather than paying a lump sum when your credit card bill comes due. Starting early will also let your peruse online merchants and brick-and-mortar stores to see who is offering the better price, and you’ll be shopping far enough advance to avoid the economics of supply and demand — that is, merchants increasing prices on hot selling holiday items due to the demand for them!
- Cancel your upscale gym membership: If you belong to a luxury gym that charges you tens — if not hundreds — of dollars a month to belong to, we’d encourage you to explore canceling it. We get that this may sound strange, but bank the money you would be spending on your gym membership toward your holiday spending and then rejoin right before the New Year when every gym is running bargain promotions to appeal to resolutioners!
- Pay in cash (if you can): It seems like every holiday season there’s a major retailer getting hacked and thousands of credit card numbers becoming compromised. Identity theft is no joke, and data thieves tend to increase activity around the holiday season when business starts booming. While we get that not everyone has the ability to pay in cash, we’d suggest doing so to avoid becoming the victim of identity theft. As an added bonus, paying in cash ensures you’re not overspending. If you’re not able to pay in cash, make sure you’re only doing business with credible merchants. Look for chip readers in brick-and-mortar businesses and secure website connections when shopping online.
So, how ready are you from a financial standpoint for this holiday season? Like we said, Christmas Day is only a little more than three months away. It’ll be here before you even know it. Now’s the time to start coming up with a financial plan so you don’t start 2020 in debt.