How to Stay Out of the Red and Save Some Green This Holiday Season

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Texas Society of CPAs offers advice to help you take control of seasonal spending

In 2013, retail holiday spending in the months of November and December totaled about $601.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, up 3.8 percent from the previous year. Although it’s easy to go overboard, paying for holiday gifts and celebrations doesn’t have to put a dent in your budget. The Texas Society of CPAs offers advice on how to make smart spending plans so you’re not left with a financial hangover in January.

Plan Ahead—Stores filled with endless gift possibilities make it easy to go overboard and spend more than you intend. That’s why it’s important to set a budget before you hit the mall or start browsing around online. Determine how much you can realistically spend, and set a maximum amount for each person on your list. Research online or look at newspaper ads before you shop to see which stores have the best prices on the items you’re looking for. Always keep an eye out for coupons, and make notes on what you’ve spent as you go along. If you spend too much, reassess your plans and decide how you can cut back on some gifts. By following these steps, you’ll have more control over your budget and no unpleasant surprises when you open your bills in January.

Set Deadlines—The longer it takes to pay off bills for holiday shopping, the more interest you’ll end up paying on your credit card balances. That’s why it’s a good idea to set a deadline—such as Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day—for making the last payment on your holiday bills. Keep that deadline in mind as you create your gift budget.

Give a Personalized Gift—We all tend to reach for our credit cards when we think of holiday gifts, but many thoughtful ideas cost little or nothing at all. For example, young parents may be delighted with an offer to babysit for an evening. A recent college graduate may appreciate cooking lessons or copies of easy-to-fix family recipes. You could also surprise an elderly relative or neighbor with an offer to do household repairs or run errands. A young family member may enjoy a visit to a museum or local historic site. Other low-cost, thoughtful gifts include a personalized 2015 calendar with family photos, or a favorite baked good. By using a little creativity, you can come up with truly memorable gift ideas that won’t bust your budget.

Pay Wisely—One guaranteed way to stay on budget is by paying cash for all purchases, making it impossible to run up big credit card bills. If you’re short on cash, use the credit card that has the lowest interest rate. Contact the credit card companies directly if you need a reminder of the interest rate and terms of each account.

Your CPA Can Help—No matter what financial concerns you may have, your local CPA can help. Turn to him or her with all your financial questions.

TSCPA ( is a nonprofit, voluntary, professional organization representing Texas CPAs. The society has 20 local chapters statewide and more than 29,000 members, one of the largest in-state memberships of any state CPA society in the United States. TSCPA is committed to serving the public interest with programs that advance the highest standards of ethics and practice within the CPA profession.

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Kari Peterson
Texas Society of CPAs
+1 (972) 687-8688
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