How you can avoid holiday debt despite the pressure to spend

Nov 29, 2023, 11:14 PM | Updated: 11:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — In the moment they feel like small purchases, right? An ornament here. A stocking stuffer there. A last-minute office gift. But all this can quickly add up to a financial holiday hangover. And perhaps it’s one you’re still feeling from the last holiday season.

According to a survey from NerdWallet, some 2022 holiday shoppers still have debt from last year. Additionally, 52% of Americans incurred credit card debt when holiday shopping last year. And in that crowd, nearly one-out-of-three (31%) still have not paid off these balances.

So, what can be done by people who’re hoping to avoid the debt of Christmas past?

Shopping expert Trae Bodge of says try not to see receiving a nice gift as an obligation to give one back.

“If you have a friend or a relative who was very generous and gives you these wonderful gifts but it’s something that’s maybe outside of your spending ability, it’s really important to have an honest conversation with what you can afford,” Bodge said. “That person would not want you going over budget just to please them or to match what they’ve given you.”

Experian’s Rod Griffin says before you show for anybody, write it all out: names, amounts you have to spend and then stick to it.

“Make a list. Check it twice. If you’re like me, be like Santa Claus,” he said. “One of the big issues people have is impulse buying.”

And if you find those impulses tough to control with plastic in your pocket, maybe ditch the credit cards this month. Certified financial planner Shane Stewart of Deseret Mutual Benefits Administrators says some people have found success by literally sticking their budgets into cash-stuffed envelopes. When it’s out, it’s out.

“If you’re not doing it and this is a way you feel like you will do it, I’m a big proponent of whatever works for you,” he said.

This has been a bad year for consumer debt. Credit card balances have reached $1.08 trillion dollars according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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How you can avoid holiday debt despite the pressure to spend