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7 Things You Should Do *Now* to Fend Off Holiday Debt

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It seems hard to believe that we’re already talking about the holidays, but now that October is over, you know the big ones are coming.

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas always seems to pass in a flash; it’s a month of parties, clothes, events, and excess spending. So how can we limit the fallout? We talked with Andrea Woroch, a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc.,

1. Sell your stuff.

You may be familiar with spring cleaning, but Woroch says fall should be all about decluttering. By selling items you no longer use you can pad your holiday shopping budget (and create some extra space).

[Related: How I Paid Off $440,000 in Debt]

Large items (like furniture) are best sold through Craigslist or via local Facebook buy-sell-trade groups. Clothing can be sold at local consignment shops or online at sites like RecycleYourFashions.com and thredUp.com. You can even sell old gadgets for cash through Gazelle.com or NextWorth.com.

2. Track flights.

It seems too early but start looking at those holiday flights now, especially for Thanksgiving. According to Woroch, the sweet spot for airfare deals is four to six weeks before your desired departure date—but the holidays are another animal. As you begin researching, use the “flexible date” feature to compare rates for departures and returns. This will help you pinpoint the cheapest times to fly, and help you arrange time off with work. Don’t forget to track prices using Yapta.com; this way, if you notice the flight price drop after you book, you can request a credit from the airline.

[Related: How the Wage Gap Affects Your Credit Card Debt]

3. Buy discount gift cards.

Always go for the gift cards. Not only are they practical, but gift cards can actually save you money when you buy them at a discount. Websites like GiftCardGranny.com offer thousands of gift cards to popular retailers, with significant savings.

4. Stash your savings.

Woroch suggests creating a holiday savings budget—and start putting away money now. Open a Christmas Club-type account at your bank, or go online to SmartyPig.com, a free service that helps you stash away cash for any purpose. Ultimately, putting your savings in a place where it’s not easily accessed will help you avoid dipping into it for unrelated purposes.

[Related: 11 Things Not Worth the Money]

5. Anticipate hidden costs.

There so many hidden costs during the holidays. Things like postage for holiday greetings, White Elephant gifts for corporate parties, or tips for all the helpers in your life. This is what will put you over your limit—so don’t forget to calculate this in advance and work it into your budget.

Holiday packaging can be purchased on the cheap from dollar stores, and White Elephant gifts can be a re-gift from something you already own (we know you have a few of those). For advice on tipping etiquette, check out these guidelines from Emily Post.

6. Consider side hustles.

The side hustle certainly isn’t a new concept. It can put some extra cash in your pocket when you need it, and could even become a permanent gig. A new study from the Academy of Management that finds that businesses launched while the founder is employed and only later become that founder’s full-time focus are one-third less likely to fail than those that began as full-time ventures.

7. Research layaway thoroughly.

While putting coveted items on hold and paying them off over time seems like a good strategy, you need to be careful about program fees. Startup and service charges can range from $5 to $10, and if you need to cancel for any reason, there’s a fee for that, too.

This article was originally published on GOGIRL Finance.

Photo: przemekklos / iStock

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