Avoid top 10 spending mistakes when buying holiday gifts

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This past Thanksgiving weekend - the start of the holiday shopping season -, Americans spent an average of $347.44 on purchases, with store visits increasing 4.8 percent from Thanksgiving weekend last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a Chicago-based research firm, sales on the day after Thanksgiving, called Black Friday because it is traditionally the day that retailers turn a profit for the year, rose 8.3 percent for this year as compared to 2006. The National Retail Federation's 2007 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey says consumers will spend about $900 during the holiday season, though some Americans will spend less this year than in 2006 in the face of increased costs for groceries and gasoline.

Careful planning and avoiding some common spending pitfalls may mean you can leave "paying for the holidays" off your list of New Year's resolutions come Jan. 1, 2008. The University of North Texas Student Money Management Center lists the top holiday spending mistakes and ways to overcome them:

• Lack of planning - To avoid overbuying in December, make a list of the friends and relatives you plan on buying gifts for and start planning your holiday spending in January. With this method, you can spread out your spending over the course of the year and take advantage of sales and bargains as you see them. This will also help you avoid a large, end-of-the-year cash crisis.

• Overusing credit cards - To avoid ringing up huge balances on your credit cards, pay cash for all gifts whenever possible. Only use your credit card if you know you can repay the balance within 30 to 60 days.

• Buying impulsively - Instead of snatching up that expensive item advertised on TV, think twice before buying anything. When appropriate, research the items you're planning to buy. You should know about comparable products and their price ranges prior to shopping in a store or purchasing that product online. Become an accomplished comparison shopper.

• Having an unrealistic budget - If you can't afford to purchase an item, tell yourself "no" and move on. Some people feel pressured to purchase items in certain social situations, like when shopping with friends. Be honest with yourself and your financial position to avoid any pitfalls.

• Shopping without pre-determined spending limits - Always have pre-determined spending limits that correlate with your monthly spending budgets. The lack of spending limits opens the door for a financial crisis.

• Spending without tracking - Keep track of all of your holiday purchases throughout the shopping period. This is the only way to ensure you're staying within your pre-determined spending limits.

• Ignoring gift giving alternatives - If you sometimes feel obligated to purchase gifts for friends and family members, try drawing names for each other to cut down on the number of gifts you must purchase, organizing a gift exchange, having a holiday dinner without gifts to enjoy each other's company, and wrapping your gifts with something other than traditional - and often expensive -wrapping paper.

And don't forget the gift of time or services. Offer friends and family members coupons for work, or time to spend together.

• Waiting to shop until the last minute - Last-minute shoppers are normally forced to pay the highest prices and get the worst deals with the least selection. Your wallet suffers when time isn't on your side. Keep your eye open for holiday gifts on a year-round basis, or mark your calendar to remind you about holiday shopping months in advance.

• Bringing more cash than you need - You should only bring as much cash as you need when you go shopping. Bringing more cash may tempt you to slip past your pre-determined spending limit.

• Forgetting to plan for next year - Start planning immediately for holiday shopping next year. Budget your spending and keep an eye out for sales and bargains.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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