Can You Avoid Debt During The Gift-Buying Season?
Yes. Yes, You Can!Sunday, October 24, 2021
T he annual Jamaica Observer Takes Style Out shopping event has become for many, over the past years, the unofficial start to the gift-buying season, followed closely by Black Friday blowout sales the following month, which are also increasingly becoming staples of the Jamaican shopping calendar. These next couple of months are a time of retail heaven for consumers to acquire things not only for themselves at reduced prices, but also for the people on their Christmas gift lists.
But, for savvy shoppers concerned about racking up debt in the aftermath of the carnival of spending the pre-holiday sale season encourages, the good news is that, with planning, it is in fact possible to have a debt-free holiday season, save money, and enjoy the approaching festivities in relative ease and comfort.
Make a plan
The beginning of every successful financial endeavour is always, firstly, to take stock. Before you rush to pull out those credit cards, honestly assess what your true financial state of affairs is. If you are in crippling debt, you might need to sit out this year's spending blitz. Don't dig a deeper hole for yourself. Instead, get creative. Give something home-made and from the heart. Cheaper doesn't necessarily mean shoddy. Consider a gift of baked goods, for example, or a craft you're good at which won't break the bank to show your appreciation of them. If they don't appreciate it, you probably need to analyse why they're on your list in the first place. And speaking of lists, make sure yours is comprehensive. If you give gratuities to your newspaper vendor or your manicurist, put them on the list so you get a realistic sense of your real gift budget.
Let's say your debt isn't chronic. Or you simply want to keep your finances in the black. Make a list of the specific items you must buy and the figure you're willing to spend on these things. If Santa can make a list and check it twice, so can you. Don't allow yourself to wander into a store and get swept away by the festive music, in-house refreshment and celebrity appearances. These are subliminal tricks to encourage you to load up on everything in sight. Stick strictly to your list. If you have low willpower, where possible shop online. Amazon.com's Cyber Monday is a great option for scoring deals, plus by going online you have the added bonus of shopping from the comfort of your living room and not exposing yourself to COVID, and not to mention wasting your time in long lines. Your time, as the saying goes, is money. Also, there are local stores that offer the option of online shopping and delivery; do your homework.
Some people only need to hear the word sale to make them start itching to whip out their credit cards. But before you hand over the plastic, figure out if you're actually saving money on that so-called deal. A study by the Wall Street Journal in 2012 revealed, shockingly, that American Black Friday deals were no better than deals throughout the rest of the year, and that in some cases, these same deals were not necessarily even as good as deals at any other time of the year. So, by that guiding principle, ask yourself: Are these holiday deals really deals? If you have credit card debt, is it worth it to sink deeper into debt for an item that's, say, a mere 15 per cent off right now, rather than clearing your debt and buying that item at full price at another time of the year?
Decide on your mode of spending
Even as the pandemic continues to affect both retail sale and the spending habits of Jamaicans, it's critical to spend right.
If things are tight, but you don't want to be thought of as an Ebenezer Scrooge by completely avoiding gift giving, you have to take special care you're not spending beyond your means. Or perhaps you want to spend simply to create a sense of normalcy for yourself and your family that the pandemic and its attendant restrictions have robbed you of for the last year-and-a-half. For you, the best mode of spending will be good old cash or a debit card. Don't spend what you don't have in hand. Credit card interest rates are no joke.
But if, on the other hand, you're doing fine financially, you can always use a credit card because you aren't concerned about paying it off quickly or you're able to pay off the full balance immediately. Use the perks to your advantage.
The bottom line
Remember, holiday spending isn't worth becoming indebted. Keep your eyes on the prize. Financial success is long-term; the short-term effects of holiday hype isn't worth sacrificing your income stability in the future.