Tips for enjoying holiday shopping season

One of the most joyful — and, for many people, stressful — seasons of the year is upon us.

This is the time when individuals load their shopping carts with gifts, and many merchants receive the majority of their annual income.

To reduce the stress factor, as well as take the financial “bite” out of holiday shopping, remember the tips discussed below. They can make the Christmas season much more enjoyable for you and your family.

First, make a shopping list. This provides a written guide as to what you plan to buy. Not only will this assist you in staying within your budget, but it also reduces the temptation for impulse buying.

Second, pay for your purchases with cash or check instead of credit cards. This may seem to be an old-fashioned approach. But various studies have shown that those who use credit cards often do not realize how much they have spent—until the bills are due.

If you must use credit cards, keep a daily total of your expenditures.

Subtract the amount of your purchases from the balance in your checking account. This approach insures that you will have sufficient funds for paying your bill when it arrives.

After the holiday season is over, you should develop a systematic means of saving for next year’s holiday spending.

You may want to consider an automatic transfer each month from your checking account to a savings account. This will help alleviate the financial pain of shopping next year at this time by providing a pool of funds.

Finally, look for discount coupons in newspapers, mail circulars and on the Internet. This can be especially helpful if you can find savings coupons for items that you plan to purchase.

Keep the above advice in mind as you do your holiday shopping. Hopefully, by following these rules, you can reduce your stress-related medical expenditures — and enjoy your shopping experience.

Wayne Curtis, Ph.D., is on the board of directors of First United Security Bank.  He may be reached by e-mail at wc_curtis@yahoo.com.