Greensboro, NC -- Three weeks until Christmas and the holiday shopping crunch is on.
But how do you get all of your holiday shopping done without regretting it come January?
According to Eric Gillespie, Director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Greensboro, every year, clients come in right after the holidays looking for help. They need an action plan to pay off their credit card debt.
Gillespie said there are a few rules of thumb holiday shoppers should remember, so they don't spend beyond their means.
First, shoppers need to plan a budget if they want to stick to it. Gillespie said it's important to write down everyone on your shopping list and how much you are willing to spend on their gifts.
But even if you do that, there's a common pitfall.
Unless you're shopping online, Gillespie said you should always make your holiday purchases in cash rather than credit card.
"People tend to spend less when they can see their hard-earned dollars going," he said.
According to Gillespie, if you pay with plastic, you're less likely to think about the ramifications until its too late.
He said even if you buy something on sale, whatever you're paying on interest negates any cost-savings anyway.
Pointer number two: Don't wait until the last minute.
"You might not take advantage of sales and things like that. Where, if you do a little pre-planning, you might be able to get a better price earlier in the holiday season," said Gillespie.
Even if some of the best bargains to be had are on Christmas Eve, you're more likely to make impulse purchases because you've run out of options.
Pointer number three: Have a family conversation about gift expectations before Christmas.
"It's better to live within your means, and that's good for your children to learn, than going out and providing stuff that you really can't afford for them," said Gillespie.
Two more tips: If you make a major purchase, and the item goes on sale a few days later, you can go back to a lot of stores and they'll refund you the difference.
Also, before you make a big purchase, ask an employee if they expect the item to go on sale between now and Christmas so you can plan accordingly.
Gillespie said last but not least, many people end up spending money on themselves when they're holiday shopping, especially if they don't shop a lot. So stick to your list!
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