Tag Archives: Christmas

How to Avoid Holiday Spending Headaches

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As early Black Friday deals kick off the holiday shopping season sooner than ever, it’s important for you to develop a holiday spending plan to avoid financial headaches in the future, says the American Bankers Association.  The ABA is highlighting seven tips to help consumers minimize their holiday spending debt.

Below are seven spending habits Americans should consider to help relieve the financial stress of the holidays:

  • Plan ahead. Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget for holiday expenses. Figure out your bottom-line number and set aside holiday cash in increments throughout the year. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.
  • Keep track of other costs. Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions. Keep in mind the end of the year is a time when large annual or semi-annual costs like car insurance, life insurance and property taxes arise.
  • Make a list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each. If you’re donating to charities, factor in the total amount you plan to donate and how much each charity will receive.
  • Shop early and space out purchases. Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending. Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store.  Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.
  • Avoid impulsive spending decisions. Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course.  Stay strong and stick to your budget.  Don’t be blinded by limited-time incentives geared toward getting you to spend more.
  • Use credit wisely. Limit the use of credit for holiday spending.  If you must use credit, use only one card—preferably the one with the lowest interest rate—and leave the rest at home.  Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time.  Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.
  • Save your receipts and get acknowledgements for charitable donations. Not only will you need receipts for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement.  Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too.  Keeping receipts or acknowledgement letters for charitable donations is a must if you want to receive tax deductions in the spring.

Information provided by the American Bankers Association

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Holiday Giving: How to Become a Savvy Charitable Giver

It’s hard to believe there are only 8 days left until Christmas! For many people, it is important to take time during the holiday season to give to those who are in need.  Donating to your favorite cause can be fulfilling, but it’s important to ensure that your gift reaches the intended source. Follow these tips to become a savvy charitable giver this holiday season:

  • Give To an Established Charity
    Unfortunately, there are fraudulent charities that will take advantage of your goodwill.  To avoid this situation, ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity will give you information about their mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. Find a charity with a proven track record for providing aid.
  • Designate Your Gift
    Some charities allow you to specify exactly where your gift is headed, either to a specific orphanage, to purchase school supplies or to a geographic area in need of relief.  By designating or earmarking your gift, you control where your donation goes and whom it helps.
  • A Proactive Giver is a Smart Giver
    Wise givers don’t give on an impulse or to the first organization that comes along.  Smart givers take time to identify the causes important to them.  Contact a charitable organization, find out their mission and what type of aid and programs they offer.  Work with charities that have targeted outcomes for their giving.
  • Benefits to You
    A donor’s primary motivation may be altruism, but everyone knows there are great tax benefits for those who give. A donation to a qualified organization may entitle you to a charitable contribution deduction.  Remember a contribution to a qualified charity is deductible only in the year in which it is paid, and all charities do not qualify for a charitable contribution deduction.  Always ask for a receipt and save them for tax time.
  • Consider Giving Your Time
    Four out of five charities report using volunteers.  Volunteers are the foundation of many charitable organizations. If you can’t afford to donate money, consider donating your time.  Common volunteer duties include: stuffing envelopes, feeding animals, tutoring, building homes, serving as a museum docent, counseling those in crisis, selling tickets or answering phone calls.

Visit these other sites to find out more on charitable giving:

Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association