Dreaming of a black Christmas

While retailers are busy trying to stimulate enough holiday sales to put them into the black financially, consumers are dreaming of a black Christmas, one that keeps them in the black on their personal ledger sheet. Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending tempted millions of shoppers to part with some cash, or at least pull out the plastic, many have now not only returned to financial reality, but have also returned their purchases.

According to the November poll hosted on the NFCC’s website, 40 percent of shoppers intend to spend zero on holiday purchases, while 51 percent plan on cutting back on what they spent last year. The NFCC poll strongly indicates how seriously consumers are taking their financial situation, and are committed to putting their financial lives in order, even if it means scaling back on holiday purchases.

The NFCC and MMI offer the following last-minute tips to help consumers avoid buyer’s remorse, whether that guilt comes a few days after shopping, resulting in returning the purchases, or in January when the bills start arriving.

  • Don’t make impulse purchases. Resist the temptation to buy anything just to be able to mark it off your list. A thoughtless gift isn’t worth the paper it’s wrapped in.
  • Make your shopping trips short by having a shopping strategy. Know what you want, where you’re going to get it, and how much you’re going to spend. Your goal is to get in and get out of the stores, thus limiting the temptation to spend.
  • While shopping, take frequent breaks and track your spending. Staying on budget equals staying in the black.
  • Resist paying steep rush shipping charges. It’s better to find an alternative gift than to spend as much in shipping as you did on the gift.
  • If you can’t find the right gift, know that a gift card always fits. Further, the recipient can use it during the steep after-Christmas sales and maximize the value.

Play it safe and inquire about the return policy before you buy. If the store offers a gift receipt, be sure to include it with the package, thus making a return much simpler.

This guest post was provided by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Money Management International is a member of the NFCC. The NFCC is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. NFCC Members annually help over three million consumers through close to 800 community-based offices nationwide.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.