Although lots of people are in the throes of back-to-school shopping, it’s a good idea to think about holiday shopping too.
That’s right: holiday shopping.
Even though we’re tip-toeing into fall, it’s never too soon to start planning – and budgeting for – those inevitable holiday purchases you know you’re going to make.
Unfortunately, far too few Americans engage in that kind of smart money-management.
In fact, a new survey from TransUnion, the big credit reporting agency, finds that one out of three Americans does not save at all for the holiday shopping season.
It’s one thing if those who aren’t saving have taken that approach because they don’t plan on doing any spending. But the reality is that most of those who fail to save are still going to shop. Especially when the holiday music starts filling the air and retailers start going full-throttle with holiday decorations and all of their in-store marketing and merchandising efforts.
So to purchase holiday goodies – everything from clothes to electronics to toys – consumers who haven’t saved will probably just raid their bank accounts and throw their budgets out of whack.
Even worse, many who neglect to save will run up credit card debt as they make merry come November and December.
That’s no way to plan for a brighter new year. A better strategy is to start saving money now to give yourself a few months head start on your holiday shopping season.
“Consumers should plan ahead now by making a list of those they plan to purchase gifts for; determining the total they will need to save between now and the holiday season; and setting a portion aside out of each paycheck,” says Heather Battison, senior director of education for TransUnion’s consumer products.
“That way, when the holidays arrive, consumers can use their saved money, enjoy a more relaxed holiday season – and enter 2012 without the burden of unmanageable credit card debt,” she adds.
I couldn’t agree more.
So whatever funds you can stash away, just do it. You don’t have to save an exorbitant amount. Even if you can only squirrel away $50 a month, that can go a long way toward preventing you from racking up unnecessary holiday debt.
Also, if you save money now and pay for your holiday items with cash, that makes it far less likely that you’ll be tempted by those nice ladies behind the counter who ask: “Would you like to save 10% off your purchase?”
What they really mean is: “Will you open up a new credit card account from our store?” If you say “Yes,” you’ll be committing a major financial blunder.
Any time you open a new credit card account, that generates a “hard” inquiry on your credit report, and hard inquiries can lower your credit score. A single inquiry stays on your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for two years. And for the purposes of calculating your FICO credit score, that inquiry counts against you for one year. By various estimates just one inquiry can lower your FICO credit score anywhere from five to 35 points.
So do yourself a favor: start saving money now, planning and budgeting for your holiday purchases. Later, you’ll be glad you did.
In a nutshell, by saving money now for the holiday season, you’ll keep your budget on track, better manage cash flow, prevent yourself from going into debt, and protect your credit rating too. Now that’s being a smart shopper.