Financing Your Gift Giving

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It’s the buy-buying-est time of the year—oh, wait, that’s not how that cheerful carol goes. But in every mall and on every TV screen, keeping time with those jingling bells, you definitely hear a relentless buy, buy, buy refrain.

Naturally you want everyone you love to have a great holiday. You’d just like to avoid the January remorse caused by the “shop ’til you drop” exhortation of Santa’s helpers. Fortunately, there are ways to accomplish your goal.

Here are four suggestions.

Make a list. This strategy works as well for annual gifts as it does for weekly trips to the grocery store. One difference: Include the amount you plan to spend on each friend or loved one—then stick to your budget. When you get to the store, head straight for the department that has the gift for the first person on your list. Continue from there without detours.

Leave your credit card at home. We’ve all heard that using real dollars instead of credit can reduce spending by almost one-third. What if you plan to use your card so you can earn benefits like cash back or air miles? Stay within the dollar limit on your list and plan to pay the balance—in full—when you receive your statement.

Give cash. What could be more useful—and more likely to keep you from overspending? Your financial institution will even provide decorative envelopes so you can tuck the bounty into holiday stockings. If you prefer gift cards, make sure there are no hidden fees that whittle away at the value.

Shop online. Yes, you’ll probably have to use a credit card. But you’ll save gas, time and aggravation. And if you set aside the dollar amount you’ve allocated on your list, you can pay the balance in full and avoid finance charges. Another savings: Some sites offer free shipping to those out-of-town relatives.

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