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52 Days Until Christmas: Are You Ready?

By Erik Folgate

There are less than two months left until Christmas, and it is less than one month until Black Friday.  Many of you are familiar with Black Friday.  It is the friday following Thanksgiving, and It is the busiest shopping day of the year.  Retailers call it Black Friday, because some retailers begin to move out of the negative and into the positive for yearly profits.

I will admit that I am a Black Friday shopper.  There are some serious deals to take advantage of if you are smart about it.  One of my favorite things about Black Friday is seeing the incredible shopping frenzy that people go through.  Something happens on that day that turns rational human beings into primal shopping cavemen and cavewomen.  People will push, shove, and scratch their way to get the plasma TV that is on sale from $1999 to $1699.  The use of credit cards is synonymous with drinking water and cash is burned up like it is going out of style.  However, each new year can bring about change.  And we need to change the way we handle our money during the holiday season.  Here are five tips for surviving the holidays without going broke. 

  1. Start putting away money for gifts as soon as possible.  My wife and I have two joint accounts.  One is for our bills and the other is for short term saving.  I would suggest physically setting aside money somewhere like a different checking account or your sock drawer.  Start a specific Christmas or holiday fund that will be used only for gifts. 
  2. Budget your gift giving.  The way that I do this is by writing down everyone’s names that I want to give a gift to, and I put a dollar amount for what I want to spend on each person.  Some of you may think that this cheapens the spirit of giving, but think of it this way, you are giving!  How can that be a bad thing?  I think one of our biggest problems during the holidays is that we try to impress others by the gifts that we give.  That is not the true spirit of giving.
  3. If you like to shop on Black Friday like me, then put together a plan the night before you go out.  Make a list of the top 5 – 10 bargains that you would like to get.  Some will be unavailable due to the craziness of this day, so have a plan and stick to it.  I think that many people get caught up in the frenzy of Black Friday, and they end up spending money on items that they never intended on purchasing.  Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale! 
  4. If you are the ultimate giver and you need to give something to EVERY person in your life, then get creative.  Co-workers, church friends, clients, and children’s parents do not need anything elaborate if you insist on giving them something for Christmas.  Baked goods, crafts, and dedicated hang-out time are all great ways to spread holiday cheer to the acquaintances in your life. 
  5. Put your credit cards away.  No, I am serious.  Throw them in the ocean or lake if you are too tempted to not use them.  There is simply no reason to accumulate loads of debt just to buy someone a gift because that is the sociably acceptable thing to do. In my opinion, spending extra time with the people you love most is the best gift that you could give anyone.  Spend an entire day with your mother and father, if possible.  Put together a cheap weekend get-away with your closest friends.  I guarantee that you will cherish those moments together more than buying them a turtle neck from the Gap. 

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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