Time to start planning for Christmas in July - The Buffalo News

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Time to start planning for Christmas in July

Not to ruin your summer or anything, but there are just 149 shopping days until Christmas.

Sure, right now you’d like to smack me for bringing it up, but if this little reminder motivates you to start prepping in even the smallest ways, you’ll thank me come December.

Last year, the average consumer spent $730 on winter holiday expenses, including gifts and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation.

That’s more than most people earn in a week. So unless you start socking money away soon, you’re likely to end up relying on credit cards and get stuck paying interest.

Just think: if you charge $1,000 to cover holiday shopping and make the minimum payment on a credit card with 18 percent interest, it will take 12 years – and $2,353 in interest – to be rid of it.

“Think of it this way: The ghost of Christmas past will haunt until 2026,” warns Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo.

Want to avoid that? Keep reading.

• Hit the back-to-school sales. Though Black Friday pricing gets all the hype, studies repeatedly show that some of the year’s best prices on computers are offered during back to school.

• Get started on handmade gifts. If you plan to knit, crochet, build or craft this year’s presents, good for you! But consider starting now so you’re not scrambling in December and can actually enjoy your eggnog in peace.

• Join a Christmas Club. Yes, they still exist at many credit unions.

At Meridia Community Credit Union in Hamburg, for example, you can set aside any amount of money all year long via direct deposit, automatic transfer or old-fashioned deposit with no minimums and no activity requirements. The only fee is an early withdrawal penalty.

• Have a garage sale. It’s the prime season to sell stuff you don’t need or aren’t using. Put that money toward your Christmas fund.

• Cut $10 per month from 10 spending categories. If you can do things like conserving electricity (dry laundry on a clothesline, unplug your cable box when not in use) and saving money on gas (don’t idle in fast food drive-thrus, coast to red lights), you can save a whopping $500 by December, suggests Consumer Credit Counseling Service and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

• Spend a tiny bit less each day. If you took that $1 you spend at the vending machine every afternoon and put it in a jar instead, you’d have about $150 by Christmas. Look for little ways to cut back.

Got money-saving tips or questions? Send them via email, schristmann@buffnews.com; Twitter, @DiscountDivaSam or Facebook, www.Facebook.com/DiscountDiva.

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