Beware of overspending on gifts

Created date

September 21st, 2010

Ahhh, the holidays cozy evenings by the fireplace, champagne toasts, juicy turkeys with all the trimmings, and a credit card bill to make your head spin come January! [caption id="attachment_14597" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Watch your money fly away when you don t plan your holiday gift-giving. (File photo)"][/caption] If you think you have to give pricy gifts or serve lavish dinners to show you care, you re not alone. Christopher Scully, author of The Debt Survival Kit, says overspending during the holidays is one of the top reasons people get into debt. It s things like wanting to please everybody all the time and not planning expenditures that get people into trouble, Scully says. If you d like to accumulate warm memories instead of interest charges this holiday season, read on for tips on the best ways to save while you celebrate.

Getting there is half the budget?

If your holiday celebrations call for travel, Scully says start planning now. Your chances of finding reasonably priced airfare in October are much higher than they are in November or December. He also encourages people to sign up for a credit card offering reward points that can be used for travel. You may also find deals on discount travel sites And, Scully says, older adults may be rewarded simply because of their age. Take advantage of discounts you might have through AARP or AAA because they can save you a lot of money, he says.

Quality time vs. quality wine

Of course you want to serve delicious food when you entertain during the holidays. But parties and meals should be about quality time with people you love. A few years from now, no one is going to remember the elaborate dessert you slaved over or the French wine that wasn t in your budget. What they will remember, however, is the meaningful conversations and laughter you shared. Financial educator and founder ofwww.smartmoneychicks.comAndrea Amir advises people to plan holiday menus around items on sale. Or, she says, skip expensive dinners altogether. You can have a potluck. Ask friends to bring a favorite family dish and tell the story behind it, Amir says.

It really is the thought that counts

When it comes to gift giving, it is the thought that matters if you do it right. An inexpensive gift that shows you know the recipient s interests and taste means more than a pricey present that could be given to anyone. A lot of people give gifts that they like, but it s about whether the person getting it likes it, says Geri Brin, founder The best way to stick to a gift-giving budget is to decide in advance who you are buying for and how much you will spend, which is easier said than done. One way to make sure you stay within the price limit is to give gift cards. California mom Shelley Hunter is convinced that gift cards don t have to be impersonal. That is why she createdwww.giftcardgirlfriend.comto give people creative ideas to customize gift cards. A gift certificate to a cooking store might seem like a generic gift for your granddaughter, Hunter says. But if you pair it with five of your favorite family recipes, it takes on a whole new meaning. Retirees have time, wisdom, and experience, Hunter says. I would suggest they pair gift cards with the things they can give, like free babysitting or an offer to help weed the garden.