Holiday Budgeting

It's 6 weeks until Christmas! Have you started your holiday shopping? New numbers show more than 50% of consumers have started shopping and those numbers look good for retailers. Financial professional Dale McCarty, President of Retirement Designers Financial Group, has a few tips for consumers this holiday season.

1. What's one of your top tips for saving and shopping this year?
- Now is a good time to sit down and create a list of everyone you want to buy for this year. Look at how much you have saved and can save between now and the holidays and allocate a set amount to spend on each person.
- Then, keep that list in your purse or your car and take it with you every time you go shopping and make it your goal to stay on budget and not overspend.

2. Retails sales are expected to be up 5 percent from last year. That's good news for retailers but what about those of us who want to spend less this year. How can we do that?
- First, you may want to consider not using credit cards. Pay cash or use your debit card. It can help you to only spend what you have. Plus, studies show you'll spend more when swiping a card versus paying with cash.
- Become a savvy consumer. Shop sales. Sign up for store emails and watch for coupons. Don't wait until Black Friday. There are plenty of good sales already.
- Finally, develop gift guidelines. Say for instance, you have a large family with lots of nieces and nephews. You want to buy for all of them. - - Talk to your siblings and set a limit for how much you're going to spend on each child. Maybe make that limit $10 or $15. It allows you to still have that gifting experience without going into debt.

3. What do you think of all the store credit cards? Is it worth opening those to save the 20 or 30 percent just for signing up?
- I think you should be really careful here. There are so many store credit cards. It's tempting to open a new one each time we shop if we're promised a big savings on the spot or at time of purchase. The problem happens when we don't pay off the balance each month and end up paying interest. That initial savings wasn't really savings after all.

4. Why should people start planning now for the holiday shopping season?
- Saving now can help you avoid credit card bills in January. If you start now, and start chipping away at your buying list, it will also help you avoid the pressure to overspend as the holidays get closer and avoid the rush.
- We want to try to end the cycle of putting holiday gifts on credit cards, so you don't spend the New Year paying off last year.