NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Planning Ahead Can Help Keep Santa Out of Debt

Holiday Shopping, Budgeting for the Holidays, Holiday Debt

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Every year thousands of Americans go into debt over the holidays because Santa and his elves went a little over budget. With Christmas shopping, increasing gas prices and hosting holiday parties, it is no wonder we have trouble staying out of debt.

It is easy for consumers to go over budget, as there are so many expenses most people forget to calculate into their budget for the holidays. The main way to avoid overspending is to plan ahead.

Whether we are buying food or holiday socks, we can use some strategies to keep our budgets balanced and avoid big credit card balances when January arrives.

If you are buying holiday gifts or planning holiday meals, consider these tips to stretch your budget.

  • Create a budget so you decide ahead of time how much you can afford to spend for special menus, holiday cards and postage, gifts and travel. You might need to make some choices.
  • Beware of credit cards when shopping for gifts or food. Try to limit your spending so that you can pay most or all of the balance every month.
  • If you have a large family, consider drawing names if you do a gift exchange. Set a price limit on the gifts.
  • Write the name of each family member on a separate envelope. Place the amount of cash you intend to spend on that person in the envelope. Use the cash to buy the person's gifts and put the receipts in the envelope. When the money is gone, you are done shopping for that person.
  • Consider giving gifts of your time or talents. Create "coupons" for baby- sitting, painting, cleaning or cooking a meal. Create a recipe booklet of favorite family recipes for your family. Check out the publication "Mix It Up" at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1494.pdf for soup and cookie mixes that can be put in a jar and given as gifts.
  • Compare prices and watch the advertisements. Check online prices, too, and take advantage of free shipping when available. If your local grocery store offers free or low-cost delivery, consider avoiding the temptations at the store by shopping from home.
  • Instead of doing all the work for a family gathering, spread the cooking duties by having a potluck. Be sure to have a setup and cleanup crew to help. Cooking for a crowd involves some special food safety considerations, so check out the information available in "Cooking for Groups" at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn585.pdf.
  • Have a snack at home before you venture to the grocery store or shopping mall. Shopping when you are hungry can prompt purchases that go beyond your budget. Mall foods often are quite expensive and high in calories.
  • Prepare a double batch of soup or favorite casserole and freeze half for a quick meal later. Make wise use of your leftovers to save money or time.

For more information about nutrition and fitness, visit the Prairie Fare blog at http://prairiefare.areavoices.com/.

My wish for everyone is a happy holiday without a financial hangover!

Sources: eXtension.org; Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist

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