2009-12-24 / Features

Holiday Shopping Strategies Help Ring In The New Year

The holidays are a time to celebrate. But sometimes it’s challenging to spend and celebrate on a budget, especially when it’s the season of giving. Now is a good time to switch your holiday shopping strategies and resolve to improve your money management skills through the new year.

To avoid stress and excess spending, more than half of American households set their 2009 holiday budget over the summer, according to the Western Union Global Business Payments Money Mindset Index. One-third of consumers are shopping for holiday gifts early and more than half are hoping those early sales offer the best prices. Additionally, 46 percent plan to cut back on buying holiday gifts and 41 percent will buy more holiday gifts at discount stores.

“As consumers celebrate the holidays with friends and family, even small budget cutbacks can be a big step toward alleviating stress,” says David Shapiro, senior vice president of Western Union Global Business Payments. “Consumers can reduce holiday stress, increase their financial confidence and improve their bill payment strategies well into the new year – if they start planning their budgets now.”

While consumers are focused on managing their bill payments, saving cash and controlling holiday spending, they are also looking ahead to their financial goals in 2010 with an optimistic attitude. Only 23 percent expect their challenging financial situations to deteriorate in the next six months, down from 36 percent in the first quarter of the year.

Almost everyone strays from their goals once in a while. But the new year is the ideal time to rethink your strategy. According to the Index, here are the top financial themed New Year’s resolutions that consumers are planning to make in 2010, along with recommendations from Western Union to help consumers realize them:

Resolution No. 1: Avoid late fees.

At the beginning of each month, sit down and figure out when you need to pay each bill to avoid late fees. Put the date you need to pay each bill into your calendar so you don’t forget. If you think a payment won’t arrive in time through the mail, then consider same-day payments. Many billers offer this option online, in person, or over the phone.

Resolution No. 2: Save more money out of each paycheck.

Determine a set amount of money each month that you can set aside. Ask your employer to make a direct deposit for this amount from your paycheck to your savings account. Or, ask your bank if it offers a monthly or weekly holiday club savings account.

Resolution No. 3: Pay all bills online or automatically.

Set up recurring payments for monthly bills. Many billers offer e-mail or text message notifications that remind you when your payment will be withdrawn from your account.

Resolution No. 4: Reprioritize how bill payments get paid.

Contact billers and ask to restructure your due dates according to when you are paid, so you can manage your cash flow better, avoid late fees and negative credit reporting.

With a little prioritizing, reorganizing of your bill payments and some money management resolutions, you can ring in the new year with more financial confidence.

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