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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

Plan for Holiday Spending Now

LAS CRUCES -- Shopping for holiday gifts may be the last thing on consumers' minds in October, but it's an ideal time to plan ahead, said a consumer education specialist with New Mexico State University.

During the holiday season, family and friends get together for parties and exchange gifts. It is always fun to catch up on family activities and share successes. But unplanned or over- enthusiastic spending for the holidays can create financial problems when the bills arrive in January, said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

"A spending plan will help families meet all their holiday needs without overspending," Wright said. "Knowing how much you can afford to spend and staying within that limit will help keep financial stress in check."

Families should estimate how much they will need to spend for the holidays, she said. Items should include travel, special meals, parties, gifts, greeting cards and charitable donations. Make plans early and begin to save or adjust the budget so the money will be available.

"Decide how much money, if any, you are willing to withdraw from savings to cover holiday expenses," Wright said. "And consider how much, if any, are you willing to put on credit cards or charge accounts."

People who set realistic spending limits and stick to them are less likely to have financial problems after the holidays, but everyone in the family must cooperate. "You may find many inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays," Wright said. "It may even be possible to eliminate some of the things you have 'always' done in the past."

Shop early and take advantage of sales throughout the year to save time and money, she advised. Make gifts for family and friends early in the year to help cut down gift costs. This will reduce last-minute pressures that often result in impulse buying.

Families should keep track of holiday expenses, Wright said. Add up holiday costs made using cash, checks and credit cards. Be aware of how much was spent and what bills to expect after the holiday season.

"If expenses are higher than your original estimates, make the necessary adjustments in your spending so you can pay those bills off as soon as possible," Wright said. "After all, interest added to credit card charges will add to the total cost of your holiday until those bills are paid."