Be wise this holiday shopping season

Do your part to help the economy without creating a money problem for yourself.

Make a plan for your holiday shopping and you will help the economy without creating a money problem for yourself. l MSU Extension

Make a plan for your holiday shopping and you will help the economy without creating a money problem for yourself. l MSU Extension

Many of you have probably started your holiday shopping already, but it is still not too late to avoid money problems this holiday season. It seems that the shopping season begins earlier and earlier, and this year is no exception. However, you still have time to avoid the pitfall that so many fall into this time of year - overspending. As retail sales continue to rise, you can take steps now to avoid money problems later.

Go ahead and do your part to help our economy grow. Holiday sales can define a retailer’s bottom line for the entire year, and they hire many seasonal employees to handle the increased sales. However, do your part without the worry of becoming a negative economic statistic. First, sit down and think about some important questions. Who are all the people you would like to buy presents for this holiday season? Give yourself some time to write them down.

Second, are there any other significant events that are occurring prior to, during or shortly after the holidays. Many people still have birthdays around the holidays, for example. What about weddings or anniversaries? What about baby showers? Ask all the people in your household to join in on the brainstorming session. It could be a fun family activity to get you in the mood to shop.

Third, decide on an average amount that you would like to spend on each gift and then multiply the amount times the number of gifts you want to buy. For example, if you decide to spend an average of $40 per gift and you have ten holiday presents, one baby shower gift and two birthdays within the next two months, you will need $520 (13 X $40) to buy all of your planned gifts.

Fourth, you may need to make some adjustments. Do you have $520 on-hand? If not, how soon can you save that amount? Do you have room in your monthly spending plan to save for $520? Do you need to decrease the average spent on each gift? Do you even have a spending plan? If not, Michigan State University Extension offers a variety of money management programs throughout the state of Michigan. You can also find help with making a spending plan at mimoneyhealth.org.

Finally, once you have an amount that you can afford, set the money aside either in cash or in your bank account. You may use an envelope to save the cash at home or deposit your savings into a holiday or savings account at a financial institution. Keep track of each gift purchased and if you overspend on one, make adjustments where you can. If you stick to your plan, you will contribute to the economy and not have a pile of debt left over for the New Year. Next year, start earlier and you may be able to do more for the economy and save money in the process.

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