GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Every year, millions of people in the U.S. head out and shop during the holiday season. Those purchases are often gifts for loved ones or necessary items for hosting parties or traveling. It is certainly the busiest time of year for retailers. 

The National Retail Federation estimates holiday sales this year to reach a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. That means the average American will spend more than $1,000 for everything from gifts to food to holiday attire.

The gravest mistake is to go into debt, which can haunt you like the ghost of Christmas past. A 2018 study from NerdWallet found that almost 3 in 10 shoppers are going into the holiday season still carrying debt from the previous year’s festivities.

Ryan Sheffer with Advance Capital Management shares some ways to keep your finances jolly all season long: 

  • Get a handle on any outstanding debt. Make a list, including balances and interest rates to figure out how dire your situation is, and then what strategy is best to pay down the debt. Moves like asking your credit card issuer for a better interest rate, or using a low-rate balance transfer, could help make it easier to juggle debt repayment with ongoing expenses. But keep your focus on the debt repayment, rather than a license to keep holiday spending big.
  • Create a strict holiday budget and shopping list.
  • Avoid using credit cards – they can tempt you to spend more and if you carry a balance then the interest will wipe out any deals you received.
  • Consider reducing some of your expenses – not eating out for lunch, staying in on the weekends – to make room for your holiday purchases
  • Earmark holiday shopping into your budget – set aside money each month in a savings account specifically for the upcoming holiday season.
  • Shop ahead of time, when you’re most likely to get better deals and less likely to feel pressured to splurge.
  • Get creative: for example, instead of buying a niece or nephew a big-ticket item, make a contribution to their 529 college savings account, which could then grow to hundreds or thousands of dollars by the time they start college and help give them a truly lifelong gift.

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