Holiday shopping is expensive, especially if you have a large group of family and friends to buy presents for. If you’re not careful, you could easily rack up thousands of dollars worth of Christmas gifts on your credit card.
This year, it’s especially tough. Inflation is high, and so are interest rates. That high interest could mean you spend much more on a gift than the amount on the price tag if you don’t pay off your credit card balance every month. Especially in an inflationary economy, it’s important to control your spending and not go into debt if at all possible.
Set a Budget
If you’re a procrastinator who still has presents to buy this year, set a holiday gift budget. Decide how much you can comfortably spend without going into debtor draining your savings. Then decide who you want to buy presents for and determine how much you can spend on each person.
It’s a good idea to buy presents in cash when possible; not using credit cards makes it impossible to rack up high credit card balances! Adding to the difficulty this year are the dire economic predictions we see on the news, forecasting a recession and job losses.
Be Prepared, Always
Shopping for non-necessities like holiday gifts can be a frightening prospect if you’re not sure you’ll be employed a few months from now. Something we try to emphasize with our clients at Asset Preservation Wealth & Tax is that you don’t want to only prepare for tough economic times when pundits say they’re imminent.
Rather, you should always be prepared for recessions because recessions are inevitable components of an economy. If you’re always preparing for a recession, then you’ll always be ready no matter when one happens. That doesn’t mean you should never shop for holiday presents; it just means you shouldn’t blow through savings meant for emergencies or drive yourself into debt to do so.
Considering all that, you might be asking why so many Americans are spending as though a recession will never happen! Americans carried about $925 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter of 2022. That’s an increase of $38 billion over the first quarter of 2022!
We’ve driven our credit card debt so high because people spend as if the current situation will always continue. Times are, compared to a couple years ago, relatively good. We aren’t trapped at home in a pandemic amid mass layoffs and a sour economy. Instead, unemployment is low, money is flowing and many are more flush with cash because, having little to spend it on during the height of the pandemic, they paid down debt instead.
But as we saw earlier, pretending this situation will always be true — and spending money as though it will — is a recipe for disaster. We’ve been here before. In 2008, people were making a lot of money, until they weren’t. After the housing market collapse, it was a perfect time to invest in real estate, but many couldn’t because they had not been hardening their finances against a downturn. When it struck, they were caught out in the storm and had no ability to take advantage of the low investment prices.
This all may seem somewhat far away from the idea of budgeting for holiday spending, but part of budgeting should be to look at how your holiday spending plan relates to your finances as a whole. If you end up with an enormous credit card bill after a generous bout of holiday shopping, you won’t have access to capital in the way you would if you were debt free.
Then, there’s another consideration: What happens if you suddenly lose your job? It’s important to remember that the goal of raising interest rates is to reduce the workforce. By causing enough people to lose, or just become nervous about losing their jobs, spending will slow down, which will drive prices down.
Keep Your Options Open
If you’re one of the people who does lose a job in the coming months, think about how much harder it will be to access the capital you need for living expenses if you spent too much of it in December. It’s important to always have cash reserves to get through an economic storm. Buy presents, but don’t overextend yourself while doing so.
All of that said, remember that it’s possible to go too far in the other direction. It’s neither desirable nor healthy to become a miser out of fear of an economic downturn. I regularly tell people, don’t act frightened; just be prepared.
Stewart Willis is the founder and president of Asset Preservation Wealth & Tax, a financial planning firm in Phoenix, Arizona. Investment advisory services offered through Foundations Investment Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser.
The commentary on this blog reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the author, Stewart Willis, providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by FoundationsInvestment Advisors, LLC (“Foundations”), an SEC registered investment adviser or performance returns of any Foundations client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment, legal or tax advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Personal investment advice can only be rendered after the engagement of Foundations for services, execution of required documentation, including receipt of required disclosures. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Foundations manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Any statistical data or information obtained from or prepared by third party sources that Foundations deems reliable but in no way doesFoundations guarantee the accuracy or completeness. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Any past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Foundations and its advisors are properly licensed or exempted. For more information, please go to https://adviserinfo.sec.gov and search by our firm name or by our CRD # 175083.