How to afford holiday shopping season, avoid January blues

It’s the season for giving and overspending. Experts say the average shopper will spend more than $1,000 for Christmas. That’s 4 percent more than last year.

Sue Peck just couldn’t stand to look at her family’s finances after Christmas.

“You wait for January and then it hits, and you’re going, what did I do? It’s like a hangover,” Peck told News 3 Now. “For me, it was always this underlying feeling of what’s going to happen at the end of all of this because I still have two more weeks and I have all these people I still need to buy things for.”

Peck decided to make a change. She and her husband started tracking their spending to avoid the holiday spending hangover.

“We really plan it out for the entire year,” she explained. “So over the course of the year, this is what we are going to spend on gifts. This is going to include birthdays, holidays and anniversaries.”

Madison College marketing professor Kristin Uttech says right away, you should figure out whom you’re going to buy for and how much you’re going to spend for each of those people.

“It’s really important to make a budget and try to stick to it,” said Uttech. “It’s super easy to put a bunch of stuff on your credit card, and then January comes and you get your bill and you’re like, I didn’t expect to spend that much, so trying to pay cash-only during the holiday season can be very helpful.”

The best way, she says, is to make a list and check it twice.

“Keep track of what you’re spending,” Uttech added. “Keep all the receipts and on a regular basis. Keep those on your budget so you do know how much that you have spent as you’re going.”

Online shopping is usually your best option if you’re looking for a quick and easy deal. She says you should also keep an eye out on retailers’ Facebook pages, where they often post special offers you only get with a certain code.

“People often look for the lighting deals on Amazon, which can sell out in minutes or hours, but those are usually the best deals,” said Uttech.

If you’re still worried about spending, get creative.

“You could give the gift of service to someone, like dog-watching or babysitting,” Uttech said. “You can use reward miles. You can use bonus incentives. Look for the best deals. There are a lot of other things we can do when we’re looking at holiday gift-giving.”

Uttech says it is crucial to save up all year long, so find the best way to do so for you to budget.

For Sue Peck, that’s by using the app Good Budget, where she can manually keep track.

“We feel much more comfortable on a daily and monthly basis, and going into the holiday season, we did buy a couple of things on Black Friday and then again on Cyber Monday, but we didn’t go too overboard because there were definitely a couple of things we had in mind,” explained Peck.

Peck recently started her own business that focuses on budgeting and finances because she wants to help others cut down on their financial stress. It’s called Evolution Financial.

We hope to keep this conversation going about prices in Madison. News 3 Now wants to know what kind of affordability questions you have and what you’re experiencing. Let Josh Spreiter know by emailing him or reaching out to him on his Facebook page.

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