Les Kirschbaum, president of Mid-Continent Agencies Inc., one of the nation’s largest debt-collection firms, says Christmas overspenders often fall into one of several character types. Among them:
Depression spenders. Espousing the motto “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping,” they buy to boost their emotional state.
Me-too buyers. Not having the financial resources to keep up with the Joneses, they rely on credit cards to do so.
“I gotta have it” buyers. They must have one of every fad product and usually are avid viewers of Home Shopping Network.
Cashless buyers. They refuse to carry cash, no matter what the circumstances. They will charge a pack of chewing gum.
Credit card collectors. They accept every card offered to them and like to show them off in public.
To overcome these and other tendencies, financial experts offer the following tips to keep holiday shoppers from overextending themselves:
Set an overall budget for Christmas spending based on what you can afford, and stick to it. Make a list of what gifts you will give to see if it meets the budget. Avoid spur-of-the-moment purchases.
Keep a running tab of what you are spending and compare that with your budget. Consider attaching a slip of paper to the back of each credit card, and write the amount of each purchase on it as you go along.
Beware of deferred payment plans. Even though you won’t have to pay for a while, you could incur enough in finance charges to double the cost of your merchandise.
Consider drawing names among family members to decide who will give gifts to whom.
If there’s any doubt about what you can afford, don’t use credit at all. Just use cash.