NEW YORK (LowCards.com) -- The holiday shopping rush is on, and paying with a credit card makes it is easy to be in the spirit of buying and giving without paying attention to how much money is being spent. January credit card bills bring the cold reality of debt and interest payments, though, and you could be paying for Christmas 2012 long after the gifts are forgotten.
Here are 10 tips to make this an affordable holiday season:
1. Make a budget and a shopping list. Start with what you spent last year and then keep a record of all gift purchases and holiday expenses -- from postage stamps to the food for the office party. It is hard for shoppers to make a budget and easy to underestimate their spending. The average holiday shopper will spend $749 on gifts, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation: $421 on children, parents and other relatives; $75 on friends; $23 on co-workers; $28 on others; $100 on food and candy; $28 on greeting cards; and $19 on flowers.
2. Change your shopping habits now before you get into the spirit of the season. If you can't afford to pay off your credit card in November, you can't afford to add a lot more to it in December. Generosity to friends or the perfect gift for the family are not good reasons to put yourself deeper into debt. If you must use a credit card to pay for Christmas, make sure you can pay it off by Easter.
3. The best way to stick to your budget and avoid impulse spending is to pay in cash. Pulling cash out of your wallet or purse and handing it to someone else is painful, and a reminder that the less you spend, the more you can keep.