It’s never too early to start your holiday shopping

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Most people have the best of intentions when they begin their holidays shopping.  They figure, they’ll charge the gifts on their credit card with the intention of paying them off within three months.

This rarely happens.  In fact, instead of paying it off in three months, or when the tax return comes in, they take upwards of six months or more.

Read more: 11 things to buy in September

Why is it so darn hard to keep to the goal of paying it off in the time frame you established?

Because life gets in the way; you find something you want so you charge it, derailing your original plan.  Or an emergency creeps up, and because you lack a sufficient emergency fund the emergency is handled with a charge card.

Why do so many consumers fall short of their goals?

Just for starters, it’s super easy to get caught up in the material trappings of the holidays. With all the glitz and festivities, it’s a challenge to stay focused on a spending plan.  You’d rather be out at a party than thinking about your budget, but it’s essential. Without a self-imposed holiday budget, you’ll end up spending freely, only to later find you’ve overspent.

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Gone are the days where my gift list included everyone under the sun. I’ve pared it down to a number that is manageable and stress free for me. That’s what I want you to consider as you make your list – make it manageable and stress free.

My list is so small I don’t even have to write it down.  But I don’t recommend that.  I recommend you use the planning tools I’ve created for you as part of the 2015 Debt Free Holiday Shopping Guide.

Read more: Time to ditch debt? There’s an app for that

The important point to remember is IF it’s important for you to give a certain person a gift, then include them on the list. If not, considering chopping them.

Remember, handmade gifts are usually greatly appreciated by those who receive them; so don’t take someone off your list just because you’re not buying them something. Making something from the heart, given with love is one of THE best gifts to give.

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One year I made all my staff my legendary, homemade tomato sauce and gave it with some specialty pasta. Everyone raved about the sauce. The gift was a big hit!

Get creative when coming up with gifts for your list. Not everyone has the skills of Martha Stewart when it comes to crafting a home-made gift.  Nor will a home-made gift be appropriate for everyone on your list.

Some family members or friends may appreciate your time more than another $50 gift card.  Rather than getting a new coffee maker for your grandmother, could you take her to a doctor’s appointment or help her run errands?

Use your talents to find the perfect combination for the people on your list.

Avoid any credit deals

Watch for the deals that sound too good to be true.

For example, stores often offer “zero percent” financing for twelve months on big-ticket items.

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Read more: Make your holiday shopping list the Clark Smart way

Here’s the problem: if you fail to pay off the item within the allotted time frame, you could be looking at hefty interest fees that have accrued from the day you made the purchase.

Stores make these offers because they make money on them.  They know most people won’t keep to their goal to pay it off within the specified time frame.  They’re counting on you to mess up with your original plan.

Avoid credit cards all together!

Remember, if you finance your holidays, the bills will inevitably start rolling in sometime in late January.  More than likely your plan to pay off the bills will fall to the wayside.

Don’t overspend

People overspend at the holidays for a variety of reasons. Maybe you feel you owe it to your kids, or worse you suffer from the Bigger, Better, Best Syndrome of keeping up with others even though you can’t afford it.

Ask yourself – is it worth the stress it causes, the strain between you and your spouse or significant other?  Now is the best time to reevaluate and reconsider your holiday spending habits and start planning for the holidays.

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