How to avoid overspending this holiday

It’s no secret most people overindulge during the holidays.

Aside from feasting on holiday treats, nearly two-thirds of adults said they have felt pressure to overspend this time of year, according to a recent survey by Bankrate.com.

With that comes a heavy toll. Roughly two-thirds of Americans also said that holiday expenses negatively affect their finances and cause stress, according to a separate survey by Experian, which polled more than1,100 shoppers.

Debt you can’t repay will certainly bring down one’s holiday spirit.

Rod Griffin

director of consumer education at Experian

“Debt you can’t repay will certainly bring down one’s holiday spirit,” Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of consumer education, said in a statement.

Yet, despite being worried about debt, consumers will still spend an average of $1,679 on gifts this year, 75% more than last year, Experian found.

That’s a hefty additional expense considering that last year, Americans racked up more than $1,000 in holiday debt by the end of the season, according to MagnifyMoney’s annual post-holiday debt survey.

Less than half of shoppers, or 42%, said they would pay off that debt in three months or less. More said it would take five months or more to pay it off, MagnifyMoney found.

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Altogether, the National Retail Federation said it expects holiday retail sales to rise between 3.8% and 4.2% over 2018 to a total of $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion.

Outstanding consumer debt already exceeds $4 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.

This year, there are some steps you can take to ensure you don’t end up even deeper in the red.

Start a savings plan: Begin reducing expenses to improve your cash flow, said Shelly-Ann Eweka, a financial advisor with financial services firm TIAA. That means skipping some dinners out, weekend travel or other entertainment, she said — and “start as soon as possible.”

Once you’ve created a separate slush fund, consider keeping it going for next year. If you put away $100 to $200 a month, that can be your holiday budget for 2020, Eweka said.

Create a budget: Write out a list of presents you plan to buy and other holiday expenses, such as a vacation or trip to see your family, then research prices and deals.

“When is the best time to buy that particular item?” said Jacqui Kearns, the chief brand officer at Affinity Federal Credit Union. “Planning is the key to all of this.”

For example, if you haven’t yet bought plane tickets for Christmastime travel, the optimal time to nab the cheapest seats is the first week of December — when prices decrease by 13%.

Suggest a group gift exchange: Having a large group of friends and family to buy gifts for can be daunting.

“Group gift exchanges are a great way to spread holiday cheer without all the pressure of buying individual gifts for everyone in your life,” said David Kilby, the founder of the financial wellness company FinFit.

Skip over-the-top gifts: Another great way to keep costs down is to forgo some big-ticket items, according to the experts.

“It’s a wonderful time of year to celebrate,” said Kearns, but “you don’t always have to buy something.”

“Consider other forms of gifts,” Eweka advised, such as babysitting, baking or volunteering.

And never feel pressured to buy something you can’t afford, she added. “Stay committed to your long-term financial goals.”

CHECK OUT: 3 holiday hosting hacks NYC chefs say can save you money and impress your guests via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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