How Much Should You Spend on Holiday Shopping?
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with it comes
the official start of the holiday shopping season. Spending
is expected to increase some 7.5 percent this holiday season,
an increase credit card group Visa USA attributes to rising
employment and falling gasoline prices.
Holiday spending is expected to increase 7.5 percent
Typically, the holidays generate over one-fourth of annual
U.S. retail sales. This year since Thanksgiving falls early,
there's an extra shopping weekend before Christmas, and experts
expect an extra boost in sales because of it.
It's easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit when looking
for gifts. The average American spent $1,096 on holiday gifts
in 2005, and many faced higher-than-normal credit card bills
in January as a result.
Holiday Spending Sends Many into Debt
Something about the holiday displays and the spreading of
holiday cheer makes many Americans overspend.
"I think a big catalyst for problems ends up with the
holiday season," said Brad Strohe, co-chief executive
officer of Freedom Debt Relief, a consumer debt resolution
service. "Culturally and combined with all the marketing,
people throw caution to the wind and have less personal guilt
about spending because it's not on themselves."
When all is said and done, consumers go over their holiday
spending budgets by an average of 15 percent to 30 percent,
according to the International Mass Retail Association.
With all of this extra spending, a 2004 holiday survey by
The Consolidated Credit Counseling Services found that 39
percent of consumers were still paying off their holiday debt
from the year before.
"You have to look at where you'll be three months from
now, six months from now, and a year from now. Otherwise your
financial hangover will turn into a financial disaster that
will stay with you for years to come," says Karen Gross
of the Coalition for Consumer Bankruptcy Debtor Education
How Much Should You Spend This Holiday Season?
There is no right or wrong amount for everyone, but what
is important is figuring out how much you can afford to spend
by making a budget.
A general rule of thumb to follow, according to CBS News
Early Show Financial Advisor Ray Martin, is to only spend
what you can afford to pay off before April 1. Anything that
takes you longer than three months to pay off is out of your
When setting a budget, first decide how much you can afford
to spend (as opposed to basing it on how many gifts you have
To avoid overspending, allocate how much you'll spend
on each person and stick to it. You can find many wonderful
gifts at affordable prices with gift guide sites, such
as the above personalized
garden stepping stone for under $30 or, for kids,
Savvy Pig bank for just $15.99.
"Our recommendation is to set a limit for a maximum
amount you're going to spend, without regard for how many
presents, who you're buying for and for what purpose,"
Strohe said. "Then make a list for the people you need
to shop for and allocate how you're going to spend your original
Keep that list with you when you shop to avoid impulse buys
or spending too much on any one gift. And, says Martin, make
sure you shop early to get the best deals.
"Last-minute shoppers pay the price for their procrastination
in several ways," Martin says. "They don't have
the time to look for sales, be selective or price compare.
Taking the time to do this can save as much as 20 percent
on some purchases. Also, late shoppers tend to use premium
delivery services such as next-day delivery as opposed to
two to three-day delivery."
Tips for Happy Holiday Spending
Planning how to shop this holiday season is perhaps the best
way to ensure your holidays won't be spoiled by a huge debt
"By developing and sticking with a holiday spending
plan, Americans can enjoy the holiday season without suffering
a financial hangover," said Stephen Brobeck of the Consumer
Federation of America (CFA). They offer the following tips
to keep your spending in check during the holidays:
Make a budget and stick to it.
Make a price list of all gifts and other holiday expenses
(food, decorations, greeting cards, party clothes, etc.)
to make sure everything is included in your budget.
Compare prices before you buy and review
sites and stores that offer gifts under $30, under
$40, and other targeted price amounts you have set
Pay off credit card debts as soon as possible to avoid
expensive interest charges.
Start a "Christmas Club Account" for next year.
This allows you to automatically deposit funds each month
into a bank account you'll use for your holiday spending
to Choose the Right Gifts for Men: Six Simple (and FUN) Steps
to Keep Your Spirits High During the Upcoming Holidays
November 2, 2006
Federation of America
News: The Early Show