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How last-minute shoppers can avoid holiday debt

Shannon Doyle with LSS Financial Counseling says you don't have to rack up credit card debt to get the perfect gift.

ST PAUL, Minn. — If you're a last-minute shopper, chances are you're currently scrambling to find friends and family gifts right now.

You want the gifts to be heartfelt and personal, but that might be hard when it's just days before Christmas and store shelves are practically empty.

The easy way out is to whip out your credit card and worry about the cost later. But before you do that, Shannon Doyle with Lutheran Social Service Financial Counseling says take a pause. You can shop smart even though Christmas is right around the corner.

First, make a list.

"It's almost like making a strategy, like a battle plan," said Doyle. "You want to get out there and know where you have to go and what you're going to be spending."

Also, when you're out, try to avoid those extra goodies.

"The food, beverages, stocking stuffers, holiday decorations. They can really add up quickly," said Doyle. "They seem like really low-cost things, but in the end, you could end up spending another couple hundred dollars."

If you get overwhelmed while you're out and about, Doyle says the best thing you can do is breathe.

If the stores are too much for you, Doyle says try gifting your time.

"You could go out for lunch or coffee or something like that. There are also homemade gifts. A lot of times, people think that that's being cheap, but really those can be the most meaningful gifts," she said.

And more importantly, try not to repeat your last-minute habits next year.

"It's never too early to start planning for next year so that you can reduce that holiday debt," said Doyle.

If you end up with holiday debt, Lutheran Social Service has trained and certified credit counselors. They offer financial counseling and debt management services. If you're interested, there's more information here.

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