November 18, 2013

Will it be a Green Christmas?

[For the official release, check out the complete survey and results]

Americans may end up on the “nice list” this year. According to our latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index, most Americans say they will be practicing good spending behaviors this holiday shopping season.

In fact, 56 percent say they are not willing to take on any new debt. In September, our Index results showed most Americans feel less financially secure now than they did five years ago, at the height of the Great Recession. Have Americans been scared straight by the poor economy?

Avoiding new debt isn’t the only encouraging note from our most recent Index survey. Check out these quick stats:

Nov 2013 Holiday Shopping - Debt

Staying out of debt

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to actually enjoy the holidays knowing you’ve racked up a bunch of credit card debt. Who wants to cringe every time your loved one opens a present from you, knowing you bought it with money you don’t have?

To avoid making the “naughty list” this year, try sticking to these tips:

  • Budget. Before you log on to Amazon or hit the mall, make sure you identify exactly how much money you have to spend this year—then, stick to it. Ideally, you’ve already set money aside specifically for the holidays. There are great websites out there that allow you to put money in specific accounts, like Smarty Pig!
  • Spend less. If you’re like me, and come from a big family, your list of who you need to buy gifts for seems to be never-ending. If you need to cut back on spending this year, try making some of your gifts. Don’t think you’re creative enough to make great gifts? Don’t worry, that’s what Pinterest is for. Or, suggest having a “Secret Santa” or cookie exchange this year in lieu of gifts for everyone.
  • Use cash. After you’ve figured out how much you can spend, use cash. Yes, literal cash. Sometimes it can be too easy to swipe your debit card, and before you know it, you’re over your budget.
  • Make lists. Don’t forget about all of the trimmings that come with the holidays. The decorations, wrapping paper, and of course, food. This is when lists can be your friend. Figure out what you need before you get to the grocery store, so you don’t find yourself staring at those sticks of butter wondering if you have any at home. Those “better get some just in case” moments can add up quickly.
  • Avoid eating out. You’ve shopped all day long and managed to forget about breakfast and lunch. On your way home, you approach one of your favorite fast food restaurants. You’ve earned it right? Try to resist the urge to splurge on eating out. Even fast food restaurants can eat into your holiday shopping budget.
  • Don’t impulse shop. Have you ever gotten to the checkout desk to find trinkets you would have never thought to buy until they are staring you in the face? Stores do that on purpose, and they’re pretty good at making those displays look irresistible. Look away! And stick to your list.
  • Compare prices—there’s an app for that! Stores are constantly fighting for your business, so there are always sales out there you can take advantage of during the holiday season. If you’re eyeballing something you know other stores sell, shop around. Thanks to technology, we can compare prices without having to hop from store to store. There are several shopping apps out there, including BuyVia, RedLaser, and ShopSavvy, to name a few.