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3 Expert Tips to Prepare You for the Holiday (Spending) Season

Dec. 8, 2016
Paying Off Debt, Personal Finance
3 Expert Tips to Prepare You for the Holiday (Spending) Season
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Come January, you won’t have to dread your bills from holiday purchases if you follow these strategic spending tips from personal finance experts Liz Weston and Clark Howard.

1. Make a spending spreadsheet

Organizing your expenses in a spreadsheet can help you see what you can cut before you even start spending. NerdWallet’s Weston uses her spreadsheet to find room to trim down her original travel, food and gift expense estimates.

2. Keep a list handy when shopping

Howard advises carrying a list with you detailing the names of everyone you’re planning to buy a gift for (including yourself) and subtracting the cost of each gift from the total budget.

3. Plan how you’ll pay off your debt

If you take on debt this holiday season, or already have some, you need a plan to pay it off. A 0% balance-transfer credit card or a personal loan can help, depending on your situation:

  • A 0% balance-transfer card without a high upfront fee will transfer your high-interest credit card debt to a card with a 0% interest rate for an introductory period up to 21 months, depending on the card you choose. Expect a balance-transfer fee that reflects a percentage of the total amount you transfer. Only use a 0% card if you plan to pay off your debt, or most of it, within the introductory period, says Weston.
  • A personal loan forces you to pay off the debt over time using set payment amounts. It’s possible to get a lower interest rate with a personal loan to pay off credit card debt, Howard says. Your rate will be fixed, but will depend on your creditworthiness and other income factors.

No matter which option you choose, timing is everything. Howard suggests creating a plan to pay off your debt within three years at most to keep you focused on your goal. And Weston and Howard advise resisting the urge to run up more purchases on your credit cards while you’re paying off your debt.

Make a resolution to engage in some spending self-control this holiday season. Your January self will thank you.

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Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.