According to recent studies, the average American household has over $15,000 in debt. The best way to do your holiday shopping this season is to avoid accumulating debt in the first place. Since Christmas is less than two weeks away, it is important to still follow a few tips when doing your last minute shopping.
- Write down your budget. If you write down how much you can spend on food, gifts, and other holiday expenses, it will help you to remember to stay within that money range. Keep this list with you at all times. A good place would be your cell phone’s “Notes” app!
- Leave the credit card at home. If you only take cash with you, you won’t be able to spend more than you planned. If you are nervous about carrying around cash, use a prepaid Visa or MasterCard. You can buy these at almost any convenience or grocery store.
- Comparison shop if you have the time. Although Christmas is right around the corner, sometimes you can still find the best rates for gifts online. Before ordering, look for coupons that might pop up or visit websites such as retailmenot.com to see if they offer any extra savings.
- Consider personalized gifts. For example, bake cookies for a neighbor that may have company in town for the Holidays. If you can babysit or housesit, consider giving a “coupon” in which a friend or relative with children or pets can redeem for a free night of babysitting or animal-sitting. Since many people are short on time and money, these personalized gifts can sometimes mean more and cost less.
For more ideas on how to save money and avoid holiday debt, visit the Personal Finance page at msnbc.com.