7 Ways to Be Smart About Money This Holiday Shopping Season

Women looking in shoppingwindow in Parisian street
Women looking in shoppingwindow in Parisian street

The holiday shopping season is upon us once again, and as Black Friday is fast approaching, people all over the country will hit the stores in search for those once a year deals and ultra-low prices. In fact, last year, Americans spent a whopping $50.9 billion during Thanksgiving weekend shopping, and this year they plan to spend even more money at the holidays, according to research from consulting firm Accenture.

As tempting as it all sounds and even if there are some deals to be had, be careful: the holiday shopping season could mean financial disaster. If you want to play it smart this holiday season, there are seven important things to remember.

Leave your emotions on the shelf
It's easy to get wrapped up in the spirit of the season, but when it comes to buying gifts this year, leave your emotions on the shelf and let reason be your guide. This is when you must start using logical thinking in the decision making process. While your spouse might appreciate that $1,000 necklace, is that really the smartest move if you don't have the money?

Plan ahead
Make a list, and check it twice. Before you head to the store, make a list of each person you need to buy for, and allocate a certain amount of money for each of them. Don't overspend by even a dollar. This is important because if you start overspending by five dollars here and 10 dollars there, it adds up quickly.

Be honest
The last thing your friends and family want is to see you go into debt, or further into debt. Remember, there's no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts. People will appreciate your honesty.

Don't get caught up in the moment
If your shopping cart is overflowing, step back, regroup and make sure you can really afford everything you plan to purchase. While there are some good deals to be had, don't fall for marketing campaigns that make you feel as if you're getting a great deal when you're really not (i.e. buy it today -- pay for it tomorrow).

Don't pull out the plastic
Don't even think of using a credit card unless you are 100 percent sure you can comfortably pay it off at the end of the month. The last thing anyone needs is to get hit with high interest rates and a blemish on their credit score. Ask yourself this critical thinking question: Would I rather have the short-term satisfaction of expensive material possessions, or the long-term results of financial freedom and abundance?

Limit charitable giving
Yes, you read that right. Giving a little pocket change to support the homeless this holiday season is one thing. But until you're financially comfortable yourself, you can't give what you don't have. While it's certainly commendable that you want to help others, those who try and support every cause known to man but can't afford to are doing more harm than good.

Make it a teaching moment
Your kids are watching your every move, so play it smart and use the holidays as an opportunity to teach kids about money. Even parents who have failed to reach their financial dreams can still teach their kids important lessons about money during the holiday season.

The bottom line this Black Friday and holiday shopping season: be mentally tough to know when enough is enough.