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Consumer Watch: Debt-free holiday is a gift

Dec. 12, 2013 - 01:38PM   |  
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Remember how you felt last January when you were paying those holiday bills?

Hold that thought — and step away from the credit card before the holiday pressure sends you on another spending spree.

Think about the gifts you’ve received. Which ones do you remember receiving, and from whom? Chances are they may not have been the expensive ones, but rather those that required thought and time on the part of the giver. Keep that in mind as you’re making your list.

At the website, a new feature shows you how to control your impulse buying, offering a video, a quick test with tips along the way, and resources to help stamp out old habits and save money with new habits.

Get into the right frame of mind before holiday shopping, and lay the groundwork for a more economically healthy new year.

“The holiday spirit means nothing if you’re buying something you — or the ones you love — don’t need and can’t afford,” the site notes.

According to a survey by First Command, military families are planning to spend less this year during the holidays in general.

About 46 percent of respondents said they’ll give gifts to fewer people, and 40 percent said they’ll give fewer gifts per person. Other findings:

■ 37 percent will set a spending limit.

■ 27 percent will spend less on decorations.

■ 25 percent will buy gifts from discount stores.

Those are good for starters. But dig deeper for ways to cut spending while making the gift more meaningful. Think about the person who’ll receive the gift; the thought and time you spend on a gift often are worth more than the cost you rack up on your credit card. How about these ideas:

■ Donate to the recipient’s favorite charity, or a charity that serves his or her pet cause, such as helping military families or wounded warriors.

■ Provide “coupons” for baby-sitting, lunch dates, lawn mowing or other gestures that can give a much-needed respite for a friend. (But make sure you follow through!)

■ Consider making homemade cookies, candy, jams or other treats.

■ Write a letter to the recipient describing why they’re special to you. Find some decorative paper and colorful ink, and spend time composing the letter so that they’ll read it many times in the years to come.

■ Find a favorite picture of your friend or relative, perhaps with the two of you together, then enlarge and frame it.

■ Browse ornaments sections of specialty or department stores, including online. You’ll find an amazing variety that will evoke good thoughts and memories for years to come — a tiny violin, a favorite sports team logo, a military theme, or an activity such as soccer or skating. You’ll know it when you see it.

Remember: If someone is disappointed that you didn’t spend big bucks on a gift that would’ve put you in debt, how much does that person really care about you?

Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

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