4 Ways to Avoid Post-Holiday Debt

People greet the end of the year with excitement. Jobs might shut down for a few days around this time, which presents the perfect opportunity to visit family or plan an overdue vacation. And let’s not forget about Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year — or the biggest excuse to stock up on everything that you don’t need.

It’s easy to become lured by the sales, the glitz and the music. And since most adults have at least one credit card, they can satisfy every desire of the eyes with a single swipe. But before setting your alarm to 2 a.m the day after Thanksgiving or booking your airline ticket to a tropical snow-free destination. Consider a few practical tips on how to keep expenses low and avoid unnecessary debt.

Sleep Through Black Friday

The shopper in you might gasp at the idea of missing the biggest shopping day of the year. Besides, how else would you afford that new laptop or flat screen. But let’s be honest for a second. Yes, you can find some amazing deals on this one day of the year. But that’s only if you’re able to fight off 100 other sleep-deprived shoppers. And let’s not forget the annoyance of standing outside a cold department store and risking a stampede. Black Friday deals are awesome, but also limited. A department store might advertise a 46 inch flat screen for $400, and then only have five in stock. This tactic is used to get you inside the store so that you can spend on other things. Stay home, get a good night’s sleep and wait for the sun to rise. Your body and credit card will thank you.

Skip Gift Giving

There’s no rule that mandates spending money that you don’t have and going into debt. Yes, gift giving is a wonderful gesture. But whether you give a gift on December 25th or February 25th, it’s the thought that counts. Don’t stress about how you’re going to buy gifts for 10 of your not-so-closest friends and family. Odds are that many of your family members are in the same financial predicament and they might welcome a change. Have a family meeting and suggest a family day in lieu of gifts. Cook dinner, play tag football and enjoy an opening-day movie.

Budget, Budget, Budget

If you plan to shower friends and family with gifts or take a vacation, don’t spend one brown penny until you evaluate your money. Credit cards have a sneaky way of psychologically masking money issues. You can buy now and not worry about the damage for 30 days. But unless you enjoy facing the after-holiday-debt-blues (and yes, it is a real condition).Take a realistic look at your finances and determine how much you can afford to spend over the holiday season. Not how much available credit you have on your Discover or which utility bill you can skip during the month of December — but how much cash you have for extras. Set aside money from each paycheck to meet this expense, and if you do decide to pull out the plastic, only charge what you can afford to pay off within one to two months.

Use Layaway

The resurrection of layaway has allowed many consumers to give their credit cards a much-needed break. Not every store offers this service, but if you decide to purchase items from retailers that have layaway, the store will hold your items for up to six weeks. You’re required to pay an initial deposit and then make a payment towards the balance each week. With credit cards you buy now and pay later. With layaway you pay now and take home later.