Easy ways to extend your holiday budget

The holiday season can prove an exercise in financial flexibility for many families.

While the spirit of the season centers around faith and family, it’s easy for families to overdo it when it comes to holiday shopping. Parents can easily find themselves expanding their budgets to ensure their kids get everything on their wish list, while fellow shoppers may easily get lost in finding the perfect gift for family and friends.

While overspending might be a holiday tradition in many families, it’s no doubt the most costly as well.

Credit c ards of ten allow shoppers to overspend on holiday shopping, making January a cr inge -wor t hy mont h for shoppers who put too much on plastic during the holidays and get the bills the next month.

It’s a lways best to avoid overspending, but there are ways shoppers can extend their budget during the holiday seasons.

• Look for “no interest” deals. “No interest” deals are not necessarily hard to find, but they might be a bit of a misnomer.

Larger retailers sometimes offer no interest financing for 12 or 18 months on items that cost above a certain dollar amount. But these deals are only “interest free” for the designated time frame. This means no interest will be charged if the balance is paid in full (there’s often a minimum monthly payment) before the 12 or 18 months is up.

However, if the balance is not paid in full, shoppers will be responsible for all interest that accrued over that 12- or 18- month period.

These “no interest” deals are a great way to extend a holiday budget, but shoppers should make certain they pay the balance off before the grace period is up.

• Comparison shop. As sensible as it seems, many shoppers find little time to comparison shop during the often hectic holiday season. Shoppers looking to extend their budgets, however, should find the time to comparison shop.

Significant savings could be had simply by scanning the different flyers in the Sunday newspaper. Such efforts only take minutes but could save shoppers hundreds of dollars during the holiday season.

• Shop early. Shopping early not only gives shoppers access to more and sometimes better deals, but it also allows shoppers to spread out their spending over a period of several months instead of a few weeks.

For example, instead of spending $500 in the weeks leading up to Chanukah or Christmas, holiday shoppers who start early might be able to afford a holiday budget of $600 to 700.

Shopping early gives shoppers the opportunity to spread out their spending, which can also allow for a little more budgetary leeway as a result.

• Go in on gifts with a friend or relative. When holiday shopping, it’s perfectly reasonable to share the cost of a gift with a friend or relative. The recipient won’t mind if the gift is from one, two, three, or four people, and each gifter will come away satisfied that their loved one got a gift he or she loves and no one’s budget was busted.

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2010-12-16 digital edition

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