GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Close to 250 million shoppers walked, called or clicked into stores over the Black Friday weekend, spending an estimated $59.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Almost 130 million Americans were estimated to be shopping on-line on Cyber Monday. The holiday season offers so much for us to enjoy; from gifts to friends and good food.
Dan Ament, Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley of Wayzata spoke with KARE 11 Sunrise to discuss some tips and traps to consider as you prepare for the season of shopping.
Make a spending plan - A common trap during holiday shopping is not planning in advance who, what, and how much are you going to spend. Make a list of absolutely everyone you need to buy for and how much you plan to spend on them before visiting any store. You will be surprised how quickly the dollars add up. If you complete this task before you begin shopping you will be less likely to outspend your resources.
Can you afford it? - Based on your newly created spending plan, determine if you can afford the projected outlay for your holiday shopping list. If needed, go back and adjust your spending plan until it meets your ability to pay. It is ideal to "pay as you go". If that is not feasible, try to make a plan to have your holiday purchases paid off in a short amount of time. Determine what discretionary purchases you could forgo until the debts are repaid. Putting yourself in debt (or further in debt) will not make for fond memories of the holiday season when looking back.
Put your smartphone or Ipad to work! - Plenty of smartphone and tablet apps can save you money, but many more can also save you time - and during the holiday season, time is money. Here are some apps from a recent USA Today article to help organize, shop and track your holiday shopping this season.
The dangers of credit - Paying for your purchases using a credit card may offer convenience but beware of the pitfalls to your financial picture if you don't pay those balances off in a timely manner. Higher interest rates lengthen your ability to pay off balances more quickly. Making "minimum" card payments can stretch out your repayment schedule to years, not months. In addition, a late payment can adversely affect your credit.
Reduce the stress - Shop early to avoid the last minute rush which typically means unplanned and over budget purchases.
Keep good records - You will need receipts for returns and exchanges. Review your credit and debit card statements for accuracy. The holiday season witnesses a dramatic increase in card activity. Ensure yours is correct.
Don't forget your favorite non-profit in your budget this holiday season - charities like many families, are facing economic challenges. If you are able, now more than ever these non-profits need your help.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)