Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shop smart this holiday season

Shop smart this holiday season By Julie McAdory

With the holiday shopping season approaching, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater New Orleans has assembled some money management advice to keep the season happy and meaningful.

When you don't plan, spending for gift-giving and other holiday related expenses can become a burden. Now is the time to compare your income and savings to your credit card debt, living expenses and other financial obligations. This should help you determine what you can afford to spend this year.

Draft a spending plan in November, stay the course in December and breathe easier in January. Consumer Credit Counseling Service these tips:

Spending plan
· Develop a holiday budget. Determine what financial expenses you'll have in November and December. This amount is not only for gift buying but postage, wrapping paper, meals, entertainment, travel and decorations.
· Find ways to cut back on expenses and at the same time increase your holiday money by volunteering for overtime at work or consider part-time employment.
· Make a shopping list and allocate a dollar amount for presents for each person you are buying for. The desire to give satisfying gifts is commonly a main concern. Remember it's the thought that counts.
· Make a list and stick to it.
· Make short shopping trips. It makes it easier to monitor purchases and spending.
· Shop alone so you can concentrate on making good selections and avoid impulse buying. Malls are slower Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
· Pay with cash whenever possible but if you do use credit limit your purchases to one card with a balance that can be paid off within 90 days or less.
· Once you've completed your list, stop shopping.

Stay the course
· Avoid last-minute shopping.
· Tis the season to be jolly, not vulnerable. Identity theft is more rampant the closer we get to Christmas so hold on to your purse and wallet.
· Be efficient. If you are looking for a specific gift, "let your fingers do the walking." Call stores to see if they have it.
· Use sales flyers to comparison shop to get the best buy.
· Avoid skip payment offers. You may not be required to send a payment in December but that doesn't mean the interest stops.
· Keep receipts of everything you spend for the holidays this year so you will know how much to save for 2008.

Breathe easier
· Maintain financial planning momentum. If you have kept to your budget, you will start the year with less debt stress. Plan for the year. Balance your household budget and you could have more money to fuel your holiday spending spree in 2008.
· Start buying gifts during after Christmas sales and all through the year.
· Seek help from a credit counselor. If you have been unable to resolve your finances on your own, consider working with a certified credit counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater New Orleans to create a plan you can live with, one that helps you budget your money and repay debt. A counselor can customize a plan to fit your lifestyle. Contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service at (800) 880-2221 or visit
· Julie McAdory is the Mississippi educator director for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater New Orleans. Reach her at (800) 880-2221 or e-mail