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Tips to Help Stay Out of the Red During Holiday Shopping Season

Are you going to be naughty or nice when it comes to spending during the upcoming holiday shopping season?

A new poll shows that shoppers plan to splurge big time this year on such costs.

The findings from Gallup last month indicates that Americans plan to spend an average of $906 this year on Christmas gifts, up from $785 in October 2016. The 2017 figure reflects the largest annualized gain in a decade or since 2007, the market research firm reports.

More precisely, 34% plan to spend at least $1,000 on gifts this Christmas, 23% will spend between $500 and $999, 28% expect to shell out $100 and $499, and 3% will spend less than $100. Some 6% of U.S. adults say they won’t spend anything on Christmas presents, suggesting they don’t celebrate the holiday.

Asked how their expected spending compares with last year, a record-low 16% say they will spend less and 17% report they will spend more. As is typical, the largest portion, now 65%, say their spending will be about the same. Interestingly, Gallup reports 2017 is the first year since 2000 that roughly equal percentages plan to spend more versus less. More often, a much higher portion of consumers has said they plan to spend less rather than more.

The higher optimism for this year’s holiday spending is most evident among middle- and lower-income adults. But the question is if the enthusiasm will be sustained?

Gallup’s initial measure of consumers’ 2017 holiday shopping plans doesn’t differentiate between traditional and online purchases. Gallup also warns the spending plans among Americans often change as the season progresses. It will provide a second update on holiday spending intentions in mid-November.

At the same time, shoppers can be kind to themselves by being prudent with holiday spending. Here are some ways to help do that in November and December:

Establish a budget.

This may include setting a spending cap or determining how much you plan to spend on each person. Leave some wiggle room to cover expenses like buying that special present for your mom or last-minute gifts. Don’t forget to budget in other expenses you might face with holiday travel, parties, and holiday-themed events.

Keep your eye on spending.

A budget won’t work if you don’t monitor your spending. Consider establishing a Christmas fund in a dedicated account at a bank or credit union. This can help stop you from digging into our regular checking account to pay for holiday gifts. Install an app on your phone with your Christmas account. This can allow you to check your balance and spending when and where you want.

Use cash instead of plastic.

Credit cards can boost holiday financial stress some as the bills arrive. One advantage of using cash is it can help you only withdraw the amount you budgeted for to buy gifts. It might limit what you can buy for the holiday season, but your wallet will thank you.

Do your homework on where to shop.

Price gifts online and compare those prices by phone by calling retailers. Consider if it’s cheaper to have gifts shipped by online retailers versus shopping at a nearby mall or store.

Use coupons.

Coupons still come in newspapers and direct mail. But don’t be afraid to check out stores where you regularly shop for electronic coupons. Consider getting on a retailer’s email list to get coupons or information on upcoming specials. Online sites like and have promotional codes that allow you to type in for discounts that can help save money.

Send out e-cards.

Many of them are free and don’t require a stamp. They can be sent to friends and family, a nice way to wish someone happy holidays and trim your budget.

Bestow something from the heart.

Providing something homemade can provide a loved one or friend a nice gift. It might be cookies or some other tasty treat. Examine making up a personal gift, perhaps something like mittens, a scrapbook, pottery or beaded necklaces, bracelets or earrings.

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