by Paulina C '13

Santa Going Broke

Ahhh!, Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like a nicely lit Christ­mas tree full of wrapped electronics and other presents!  And… nothing says “HOLIDAYS ARE OVER” like a stack of unpaid bills on the dinning room table.

“It is really hard not to spend a more than usual on Christmas. Holi­day shopping is a weak­ness”, says a mall custom­er who was braving frigid temperatures to catch up on her shopping. Carry­ing a bundle of bags she admitted “saving money on Christmas is not easy.”

According to the National Retail Federa­tion (NRF), this season the average U.S customer will spend about $817 and most of them will pay for gifts with credit cards.  In fact, NBC News reported that the average American holds from 6 to 8 credit cards. The truth is that a credit card could be the consumer’s best friend.  It is small and compact, secure to carry and easy to use. But the card also gives the shopper the opportunity to pay later rather than at the moment of purchase, and that can turn into a trap.

In 2003, the NRF reveled that in November, 53% of families were still paying their bills from the previous holiday season. In 2005, U.S. customers spent about $438.6 billion during Christmas. Accord­ing to a study conducted by the Consumer Federa­tion of America Survey, the total credit card debt in the U.S. is nearly $600 billion.

While paying with a credit card, one can easily get carried away because one is not aware of the amount of money being spent.  With cash, however, you are more aware of your spending and you don’t have to worry anymore about the purchases made.

Several factors lead people to overspend in the holiday season; The lack of planning is one of the many reasons.  People should budget their spend­ing during the holidays by making a plan of how many people they are going to get gifts for and how much money they can afford to spend on each person.

“I buy ahead.  I start in November, and I budget to spend 10 dol­lars per person.  I look for sales and sometimes I can get great gifts for as little as $6.  Since I buy in November, in December I have less to spend.  I try to be cautious around the holidays.  I avoid the mindset that ‘Christmas only comes once a year,’” says a Ms. Vargas who calls herself a cautious spender.

Although this advice will most likely work and help people avoid debt, many shoppers find it exhaust­ing and a waste of time to carry out these budget-planning schemes.  The organization of spending simply takes too much en­ergy and concentration out of the joy of holiday vaca­tion.  “Every year I plan on having a list of what I’m going to get and how much I’m going to spend.  But when Charismas rolls around I get too tired to do anything and then I reas­sure myself next year I’ll do it!” exclaims a young consumer on the subject of budget planning.

According to experts, in order to avoid debt, consumers are better paying in cash than with a credit card. A customer with cash will know exactly how much they are spending and cannot spend more than what they have in their wallets. Such limitations are nonexistent when it comes to credit. The shopper could buy and buy and lose track of numbers and boundaries, ending up in deep debt.

We could agree that avoid­ing the holiday frenzy is a hard thing to do, but in the end it pays off.  You can enjoy the holidays and the aftermath of it too.

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