For Ryan Decker, surviving the holiday shopping season is all about planning ahead. In fact, if he sees a gift for one of his two young sons in March, he’ll go ahead and buy it, instead of rushing through his shopping list in December. “It very much eases the burden,” he says, making his December bills more manageable because he spreads holiday costs throughout the year.
Decker, a certified financial planner and director of the Center for Financial Literacy at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, says that without that kind of advance planning, the costs this time of year can quickly overwhelm budgets. “Inflation is eating away at our purchase power, so once you throw in the holiday season, it’s a very stressful time.”
Financial educators like Decker are often busy during the holiday shopping season, sharing tips with their audiences about how to avoid debt and save money while still being festive. We asked five of them how they personally navigate the season with their finances intact.
“I know I’m going to be setting a budget so I don’t suffer after the holidays,” says Christine Whelan, clinical professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She makes a list of those she needs to buy gifts for and assigns a spending cap for each person’s gift.
Part of that strategy means limiting purchases to what she can comfortably afford out of savings instead of turning to credit card debt, Whelan says. “One of the ways we can use our limited resources to maximize our happiness is to pay now, rather than get socked with a credit card bill in February, which undermines our financial and emotional well-being.”