Here are some signs that you might need to trim your holiday spending this year.
Christmas is a time for giving. But it can also be a time to feel pressured to give beyond your means.
“When you hear the word ‘Christmas,’ perhaps the very first thing you think about is having to buy gifts for all those people, and you think, ‘How am I going to afford it?’” said Jamie Pomeroy, a financial adviser in Minnesota.
Feeling stressed is one sign that you might not be prepared financially for the holiday season. Here are some others:
You don't have a holiday budget
That anxiety you’re feeling about the holidays might be due to the fact that you haven’t taken the time to figure out how much you can afford to spend.
“Show me someone who is stressed about Christmas, and I’ll show you someone without a budget,” Pomeroy said.
Your expenses exceed your income
“If you don’t have money to pay your regular bills, you can’t afford Christmas this year,” said Holly Johnson, a frugal living expert and co-author of the forthcoming book “Zero Down Your Debt.”
You might have time before the holidays to cut some of your bills and regular expenses to have a little more cash for gifts. But, you might just have to take a step back this year, Johnson said.
You need credit to buy gifts
The Experian survey found about half of consumers were planning to use credit cards to pay for holiday shopping last year.
It’s one thing if you shop with credit cards to earn rewards points. But it’s a red flag if the only way you can afford to buy gifts is by charging them.
You're still paying off last year's gifts
“Some consumers can’t afford Christmas 2016 because they are still paying off Christmas 2015,” said Leslie Tayne, financial attorney and author of “Life and Debt.” “Before making any additional purchases, focus on paying down your debt.”
Your gift list grew, but your budget didn't
Problems arise when the size of your Christmas budget doesn’t increase along with your gift-giving list, Tayne said. But if you act now, you still have time to prepare.
Find more cash for your holiday budget by identifying non-essential expenses, Tayne said. Or, adjust the amount you spend on each gift.
You're saving for a big goal
You might be saving for a big expense this year, such as a wedding or down payment on a house.
“This leaves you with a lower Christmas budget — or no budget at all,” Tayne said. “Don’t fret. Your new home or wedding is a priority right now, and your family will understand.”