Before shopping for the holidays this year, consider making a budget

The holidays are upon us, and while it brings with it cheer and togetherness with friends and family, it also can bring something not so special: Gift buying debt.

To prevent having to make a New Year’s resolution to pay off the holiday debt, instead try getting yourself on budget now.

“You need to create a budget for yourself and identify how much money you have, how much money you have coming in, minus your bills, and then see how much money you have left over,” said Harrine Freeman, a financial expert in D.C.

Freeman, who also authored the book “How to Get Out of Debt, Get an ‘A’ Credit Rating for Free,” said for people who don’t have money left over, they shouldn’t be spending on holiday gifts and parties unless there is a plan to bring in additional income such as through a part-time job.

“What you don’t want to happen, is New Year’s comes, you’re excited … and then you get a slew of credit card bills that you can’t pay,” Freeman said.

Once you have the extra money accounted for, Freeman said, sit down and develop a budget for how much you would like to set aside for the holidays. Once you determine a spending limit, she suggests sticking with it, and don’t be embarrassed to ask for assistance in staying within your limit.

“If you feel like you can’t stick to it, get that accountability partner, get someone that will help you stay on track — either your children, your spouse, your partner, a friend, your parents,” Freeman said.

Another thing that gets holiday shoppers, Freeman adds, is impulse buying. That is something she feels you should never do.

She recommends that once you see something you want, wait at least 24 hours before purchasing it, and before you buy it, comparison shop online to make sure you are getting the best price for the item.

“That way, you don’t go overboard,” Freeman said.

Also, Freeman suggests keeping in mind that some retailers mark up items during the holidays, so that’s another reason to do your research.

Freeman said you can also use any cash back rewards you racked up during the year for gift buying, and don’t forget to use coupons. Loyalty cards can also save you money.

She said websites like and can help you find discounts. She also said shopping portals such as Rakuten and Swagbucks can help you save.

For large families with limited budgets, you can also re-imagine how your family does holiday gift giving.

“Instead of buying gifts for everyone, consider maybe just buying gifts for the children, or consider doing a ‘Secret Santa,’ that way, you save money during the holiday season,” Freeman said.

Finally, Freeman encourages everyone to consider saving for the holiday season throughout the year. One way to do that is to use the total you spent this year on gifts and set up a savings account with automatic deposits, that will have that same amount come next Fall.

“You won’t be taxed, and you won’t feel stressed out, anxious and worried because you don’t have the money, because you’ve saved from January to October,” Freeman said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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