We get it. Who hasn’t said, “What the heck, it’s the holidays,” when shopping for gifts? The problem comes when the January credit statement arrives and we end up thinking something completely different.
That’s one holiday tradition we can all do without. And Lakhbir Lamba, PNC Bank’s Head of Retail Lending, offers pointers on how to sidestep the post-holiday credit card blues.
“Credit cards are easy to use, and they’re widely accepted as a form of payment. Unfortunately, that ease of use also makes it easier to get into trouble with excess spending.” In fact, roughly 53% of all holiday shoppers plan to charge at least some of their purchases in 2023.1
How do you ensure the New Year will be just as merry and bright as December? We have some ideas for you.
Make A List. Check It Twice
We don’t suggest you cut back on joy during the season of giving. Instead, planning ahead can help you avoid last-minute impulse purchases.
“Nobody likes to hear the words ‘budget’ and ‘holiday’ in the same sentence,” adds Lamba. “But, the better you understand how much to spend ahead of time, the less likely you’ll need to be a Scrooge when it comes to repaying expenses.”
That means assigning a dollar limit for gifts, not to mention keeping your shopping list in check.
Take A Look Back
If you’re having a hard time establishing a budget, past credit card statements could provide valuable guidance.
“Take a look at your spending from the previous holidays,” Lamba suggests, “including expenses such as travel, dining out, and holiday parties. Doing so will give you a good reality check when it comes to understanding spending habits. It also helps establish a comfort level when it comes to deciding what to budget for in the current year. If, for example, you had trouble paying off your credit cards last year, then that’s a sign that you may need to trim things back a little this year, assuming your financial situation hasn’t dramatically changed since then.”
Your Credit Card Can Be a Gift, Too
If you have any rewards credit cards, now is a good time to look at all your cardholder benefits. You may be able redeem points and leverage those to make a substantial dent in your shopping list.
“People sometimes forget how powerful a rewards credit card can be,” Lamba adds. “With some, you can redeem for gift cards, for example. Gift cards make terrific gifts that could also mean a big difference in someone’s life—especially if they’re tightening their own belts after the holidays. And, gas gift cards, as another example, could really help someone who spends a lot of time on the road.”
If your rewards card offers points toward travel, you could even use those to contribute to the cost of a trip for someone. Hotel and airline points are often transferrable, which means the recipient could be thanking you long after the holidays have passed.
At the same time, rewards cards may offer discounts with specific retailers or offer a gift catalog where you can redeem points for merchandise. This allows you to give a great gift without spending an extra dime.
Finally, your credit card might offer discounts on specific types of purchases such as gasoline, groceries or dining out. While the discounts often add up to only a few percentage points, every little bit counts.
In short, there are all kinds of simple and easy ways you can celebrate the holidays in 2023 without paying the price in 2024. Follow our suggestions and you may be able to ensure a Happy New Year when it comes to your finances.