Thursday, August 05, 2010

How To Be Debt-Free In 2011


It's hard to think of Christmas when you're busy cooling off by the nearest air-conditioning vent, but now is the best time to prepare. Remember that credit card bill you cringed over in January? If you start saving now and plan for your holiday spending, you'll be able to shop guilt-free with cash, and ring in the New Year knowing you won't be paying for those gifts until spring. Here's a plan to get you there.

Set a Goal

How much does the holiday season set you back? It is estimated that the average American spends between $700 and $800 on gifts. Start by making a list of all the people you expect to buy for, and assign a rough budget for each. Don't forget to budget for travel expenses you might incur, or food and decoration for that dinner party you plan to host for your family. Be realistic about all the added cost of the holiday season, so you have an honest savings goal to work with.

Ready, Set ... Save!

Now that you have a goal, divide this dollar amount over the months leading up to Christmas. Let's say your goal is $750; divided by five months that means $150 a month, depending on how long you have left until Dec. 25. This will be your monthly savings plan. If you can save up this sum, you will be able to pay cash for everything come shopping time.

Why cash? Remember that January credit card bill? You're not alone: studies show we spend more when pulling out the plastic instead of cold hard cash. Paying cash will make sure you don't spend more than planned, and save you the credit card interest charges.

Make Your List and Check It Twice

So what if there is just no way you can make this savings goal? Maybe you or your partner lost a job this year, or maybe you have other bills that take priority over Christmas gifts. Prioritize your list, and look for ways to cut the budget. Instead of buying your colleagues and friends presents, maybe you can make a batch of sweets, or host a dinner--better yet, make it a potluck. Sure, grandma loved that food basket you ordered online, but she'll love a framed photo and artwork from the kids too.

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