21 Tips for Wiser Holiday Spending
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"21 Tips for Wiser Holiday Spending To Help You Avoid Becoming a Debt-Head"

From the non-profit Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE)

RELEASE: November 2001
CONTACT: Paul S. Richard, ICFE Executive Director

San Diego, CA.  The credit card issuers may spend over $100 million on advertising, special promotions and appeals this coming holiday season urging more credit card spending. Retailers and big ticket manufacturers (appliances, furniture, electronics and automobiles) may spend an additional $150+ million urging consumers to apply for newly introduced credit cards and then spend extravagantly by using them.

According to The Wall Street Journal, 70 percent of Americans have no money left over after paying basic expenses every month. As food, energy, housing and other costs push higher it makes it more difficult for consumers to keep up, much less get ahead. This could mean even more credit card buying than last year, both for basics and holiday gifts.

How can consumers develop resistance to seductive appeals to spend? "Develop some financial self-discipline," advises the Institute of Consumer Financial Education, (ICFE) a San Diego based non-profit group helping people become better spenders, regular savers and more careful credit users.

The ICFE is making available several 'safe spending' helps in the form of "warning labels" for credit cards. The purpose is to counter the "indiscriminate spending" messages that are coming from advertising campaigns encouraging credit card spending. (see # 12 below) The "safe-charge" program also includes tips for using credit cards, spending tips for grocery and household items and valuable information on the importance of everyday spending decisions and how they affect your financial future in retirement years. It seems to be especially hard for some people not to be an over-spender during the holidays because of an emotional need to express love, appreciation, friendship, etc. By employing better spending techniques, however, people can help eliminate over-spending and keep from getting over charged with plastic this holiday season.

The ICFE's executive director, Paul S. Richard, offers some useful spending tips and ideas for holiday shoppers which can help consumers spend less overall and perhaps even eliminate the need for credit-based spending.
 

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Create a written plan for holiday spending and gift giving a month or two in advance. Include possible gifts, dollar amounts and alternative choices.

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Establish spending limits for gifts for each person on your list and start looking for bargains early.

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If it has been a challenging year financially, you need to shrink your holiday gift list. Begin by talking with those you exchange gifts with and explain, perhaps suggesting not exchanging gifts or mutually observing much lower dollar-limits on gifts.

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Separate shopping trips (when comparing prices, quality, value, etc.) from spending trips (when making a purchase), and resist taking cash, credit cards or a checkbook on the shopping trips.

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Wait for those sales! Increased food and energy costs this year could bite into holiday sales, so sales and clearances could come earlier than usual.

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Watch the advertising and sale flyers for items you intend to purchase.

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Ask retailers when the items you are interested in buying are coming on sale. Most retailers will reveal sale dates because they don't want you to shop their competition.

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Sometimes shopping later in the season (for smaller gifts wrapping and accessories, etc.) will allow you to take advantage of clearance sales. It will often yield lower prices over-all. If holiday sales are sluggish, discounts and clearance sales will appear earlier this season.

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Liquidators, buying clubs and factory outlet stores usually offer lower prices.

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Bulk buying with other family members or friends can also yield savings.

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Spend cash and avoid using credit cards. Charge cards tend to promote indiscriminate spending. Credit card users often say they had no idea how much they spent on the holidays until the credit card bills arrive in January or February of the next year.

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WARNING, credit cards have a message: SPEND! Help for credit card spenders is available from the ICFE. There are "Credit Card Warning Labels" that four different messages: 'WARNING: Overuse Is Dangerous!" or "Should I Charge It???" or "Can I Afford It???" and a new label for 2001 "If You Can Eat It, Drink It, or Wear It, It Is NOT An Emergency! To get an assortment of 12 labels with all four messages, please send $5 to: ICFE PO Box 34070, San Diego, CA 92163 and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Click Here For Order Options.

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Sometimes writing checks can get out of hand especially when you fail to record each check or calculate the balance after writing a check. It often results in over-spending, playing the cash float game and NSF check charges.

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Giving gifts to adults on New Year's Day is very special. You can really take advantage of all those after Christmas sales.

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Consider gifts that don't cost a lot of out-of-pocket money. Giving a card to a young family which entitles them to emergency baby-sitting time, for example, will result in savings for both families. Laundry or shirt ironing for a bachelor, a bimonthly sight-seeing outing for senior citizens or gardening, housecleaning and car washes for grandparents are useful and often much needed gifts.

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If considering a part-time job over the holidays, perhaps working for a department store or other major retailer, you could economize with an employee discount in addition to getting early information about up-coming sales.

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At office parties and other holiday functions where you might be asked to provide a gift, suggest that instead of gifts, bring canned food for the homeless or disadvantaged.

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Save more on holiday greeting cards and postage by sending only to those in your life you won't see over the holiday.

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Make more of your gifts at home. A freshly baked loaf of bread, cookies, desserts, etc. are always appreciated. Also art, crafts, needle work or a collage of photographs.

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Instead of giving money, especially to younger children, give U. S. Savings bonds. They cost one half of the face value, will not be immediately spent, they encourage savings, and because they are interest bearing and tax free until redemption, the gift keeps on giving.

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Gift wrapping and incidentals can become costly. It is easy to economize; give a card with a photo of the gift and the unwrapped gift, use newspapers, magazines, grocery and shopping bags as gift wrap or reusable gift boxes, etc.

It is easy to over-spend, especially during the holidays, and research shows that 30 cents of every take-home dollar goes for household and grocery items.

The ICFE has available online at: http://www.financial-education-icfe.org a MONEY HELPS section.

To get the packet by mail, please send $1 plus a Self Addressed, Stamped 60 cents Envelope (SASE) to:

ICFE Money Helps
PO Box 34070
San Diego, CA 92163-4070

The "Money Helps" Packet  includes:

(1) "ICFE Spender's Profile" which helps people identify dangerous spending habits"
(2) "15 steps to improve spending"
(3) "How to spend smarter for household and grocery items"
(4) "How to set up and implement a spending-plan";
         (plus a budget worksheet) for personal and/or family finances
(5) "Dealing with creditors"
(6) "Steps to take to reduce indebtedness" and more

About the ICFE:

The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton - creator of the "certified financial planner” (CFP) designation - is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely. The years between 1984 and 2000, the ICFE was also known as the National Center for Financial Education (NCFE).

The ICFE is a nonprofit consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. Over one million "Credit / Debit Card Warning Labels” and "Credit / Debit Card Sleeves” are in circulation world wide.

The ICFE's on-line help for consumers who spend too much was featured in PARADE Magazine (June 9th, 2002) in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the "Money Instruction Book," a course in personal finance, which was completely revised and updated in 2002 and is positioned to become among the premier programs in the new bankruptcy and debtor education initiatives.

The ICFE's "Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction Guide," now in its Twelfth Printing, is in use by thousands of consumer credit and debt counselors in addition to tens of thousands of consumers. It received a "buy” rating in July, August and November from nationally syndicated financial columnist, Humberto Cruz in his column, "The Savings Game". BottomLine Personal newsletter gave the Guide a "Send For” rating in September 2001. The ICFE and our do-it-yourself approach to credit file correction was featured on NBC Nightly News on 04-30-02. The Spanish edition of the Guide premiered in January 2002. Syndicated columnist, Robert Heady also gave the ICFE Guide a "buy” rating.

The ICFE Web site at: www.financial-education-icfe.org helps consumers with mending spending, learn about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also access financial education courses and videos and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include a free eNews, and an on-line resource center of financial education learning tools, including videos, books and personal finance courses.

Consumers may learn more on the Internet about the "Do-It-Yourself Credit File Correction Guide" here, or fill out our request form, indicating your areas of interest.

For more information contact Paul S. Richard ICFE Executive Director at 619-239-1401.

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