Linda Geist

SHELBYVILLE, Mo. – ’Tis the season to be jolly. And in debt.

Plan your seasonal shopping purchases to avoid overspending, says University of Missouri Extension family financial education specialist Wendy Brumbaugh.

Santa may bring gifts for everyone, but you don’t have to, she says. There’s nothing Scrooge-like about being smart with your money, says Brumbaugh.

Brumbaugh offers these tips for holiday shoppers:

  • Make a list of people you will be buying for and how much you will spend on each. Write down gift ideas for each person before you hit the stores. It’s best to buy, rather than shop, to avoid impulse spending.
  • If you typically find yourself overspending, put cash in an envelope for each person and stick to your pre-set limit.
  • Give gift cards. That way there is no temptation to spend extra money on someone’s gift. You will be spending exactly what you had allowed.
  • Make a list and check it twice. Revamp your list or consider giving smaller, homemade gifts such as cookies or bread to people such as your hair stylist, dog sitter or the co-worker in the “Secret Santa” exchange at the office.
  • Shop early. Overspending often happens when you’re rushed or under pressure.
  • Use your smartphone or similar device to download coupons and do price matching at the register.
  • Don’t give in to pressure to spend more than you budgeted just because someone else always buys you expensive gifts. There are always going to be gift-givers and gift-getters who have more or less money than you do.
  • Don’t be your own Santa. One of the biggest pitfalls of holiday shopping is buying something for yourself that you’ve wanted while you are shopping for others.
  • Don’t apply for store credit cards for a one-time purchase. Although it’s tempting to take advantage of special savings for that day, it leads to further temptation and may affect your credit rating.
  • Allow yourself additional money for lunches while shopping. Include costs for cards, shipping and wrapping paper in your gift budget, as these expenses add up quickly.
  • Take only one credit card with you when you shop.
  • Don’t max out your credit card. Fees and interest charges can add up quickly, and going over your limit can affect your credit rating.
  • Keep receipts.

For more information from MU Extension on personal and family finance, contact your local MU Extension center.