Plan now to make holidays debt-free

  • Anne D’Innocenzio Associated Press
  • Monday, October 19, 2009 8:35pm
  • Business

NEW YORK — For consumers grappling with job insecurity and limited credit, it will be especially important to keep holiday spending in hand this year. To avoid making bad choices or buying in a panic two days before Christmas, the key is to start planning now.

“If you plan and figure out how much money you have, it won’t be stressful,” says Sandy Shore, senior counselor for Novadebt, a nonprofit New Jersey-based credit counseling agency.

Here are some tips:

Set limits

Job One is to figure out how much money you can afford to spend in all. Next, list people you’ll shop for and set a spending limit for each with some specific ideas of what gifts you’d like to procure. To avoid racking up debt, pay with cash or a debit card or even set up a special bank account — though experts caution against using traditional Christmas Club accounts if they have lots of restrictions.

Shop strategically

To find the best deals, from computers to toys, register to receive e-mail alerts on price cuts. Sites like, and have information on a wide range of goods. looks for deals on brand-name clothing and accessories and e-mails shoppers customized daily or weekly summaries. And tailors deals to a given region based on interest expressed by members of the site.

Timing is everything

Daniel de Grandpre, editor-in-chief of, says the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the shopping season’s kickoff, isn’t necessarily the best day to find bargains. In recent years, stores have offered deals throughout November similar to their promotions during that ballyhooed pre-dawn bonanza, while de Grandpre says the best time to buy toys is two weeks before Christmas. That’s when stores start ratcheting up discounts, sometimes to 80 percent, particularly on more obscure toys and those not selling fast. Of course, if you want this year’s must-have, you should start looking now or risk finding yourself in a bidding war.

Think about reuse

Refurbished goods that look new are great for the gadget-seekers on your list. Michelle Madhok, founder of online publications and, points to sites like and Dell Inc.’s Both offer the same warrantees on used items as on new products, and some of their “refurbished” products were simply returned by customers unused. Dell spokesman Bob Kaufman says discounts range to 20 percent.

Also check, which sells returned items for 40 percent to 70 percent off the retail price. And remember that will connect its customers with used books, DVDs and other items being sold by other retailers and by consumers. can also be a great source. Whenever buying anything used, be sure you know its condition before you pay.

Consider cash back

Many credit cards and retailers reward shoppers with points or even cash, though experts advise checking for fees or limits on how you can spend the payments.

Wells Fargo’s card services division simply gives back 1 percent of a cardholder’s monthly purchases. When Bank of America credit card holders shop online with about 300 specific retailers, they get up to 20 percent back on top of any discounts retailers offer. And gives participants a $20 gift certificate for every $200 they spend.

Many other cards and stores offer similar programs. But Jim Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor University, warns that such programs can trap consumers and recommends using them to buy only what you need, just as you should respond to any sale or promotion.

“Don’t just spend to save.”

Talk to us

More in Business

Gillian Montgomery weighs a bag of bird seed at Wild Birds Unlimited on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Bird and cat lovers flock to this Everett bird supply store

Bring on the birds! Locally owned Wild Birds Unlimited store can help turn your backyard into a “seedy” restaurant.

Brielle Holmes, 3, points to a stuffed animal that she likes at Wishes toy store on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023 in Alderwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Local toy store chain got its start as kiosk at Everett Mall

Wishes now operates eight stores, including three in Snohomish County. Its Alderwood mall store is a roomy 7,000 square feet.

Manager Rika Rafael, left, visual merchandiser April Votolato, center, and assistant manager and events coordinator Jaidhara Sleighter stand at the entrance of East West Books & Gifts’ new location Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in downtown Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘We were meant to be here’: East West Books Gifts reopens in Edmonds

Located in Seattle before the pandemic, the new store offers books and other resources on meditation, spirituality and yoga.

Members and supporters of the Snohomish and Island County Labor Council gather on Oct. 10 at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center in Everett. The the Affiliate Labor Champion Award was given to the International Association of Machinists 751. Wes Heard, center, accepted the award on behalf of IAM 751. Photo credit: Snohomish and Island County Labor Council.
Snohomish & Island County Labor Council honors labor leaders

The labor council’s annual Champions Dinner recognized two local labor leaders and a machinists union last month.

Two students walk along a path through campus Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. The college’s youth-reengagement program has lost its funding, and around 150 students are now without the money they need to attend classes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fewer students enroll at state’s public colleges, study says

Enrollment has picked up since the pandemic, but the lag threatens the state’s quest for education equity.

Michelle Roth is a registered nurse in the Providence Emergency Department on Sunday, January 23, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Health career job fair to be held Thursday in Everett

More than 14 health care related employers will attend the Snohomish County/Workforce Snohomish event.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
State gets $1 million grant to boost small-business exports

Washington’s Department of Commerce will use the federal grant to help small companies increase their export business.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Grant to help fund health care program at Edmonds College

  1. The $220,000 grant from Career Connect Washington aims to improve the college’s patient care technician program.

Lead climbers head up their respective routes at Vertical World North on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Beginner’s ascent: A newcomer’s guide to indoor climbing

Indoor climbing gyms in and around Snohomish County offer thrills without winter chills.

A view of the Broadway construction site of Compass Health’s new mental health facility on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Compass Health dedicates Everett block to housing and behavioral health services

The “state-of-the-art” project is set to total over $90M. The nonprofit has asked for public support.

More than 150 people attend a ribbon cutting event on Nov. 16, 2023 celebrating the completion of Innovation Hall at the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College campus. The building, which highlights STEM instruction and research, opens to students in January. Credit: Tara Brown Photography/UW Bothell
New science, math facility opens in January at UW Bothell

Innovation Hall is the first new building to be constructed at the Bothell university campus in 10 years.

Rairdon Auto Group acquires Pignataro VW in Everett

Everett VW dealership is the 12th for the Rairdon Group, which marks 30 years in business this year.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.