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Lewes, Delaware
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December 6, 2002     Cape Gazette
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December 6, 2002

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70 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, Dec. 6 - Dec. 12, 2002 Retailers not expecting to see big holiday push According to the annual Holi- day Spending Survey by Myvesta, Americans are planning to spend slightly less on holiday purchases this year. The average holiday shopper will spend $722 this year, down from $773 in 2001; 42per- cent of shoppers plan on spending under $500. "With people still uncertain about the economy and job securi- ty, their mindset is to hold onto of their hard earned cash," said Steve Rhode, president and co- founder of Myvesta, a financial health center. "Even though our economy has shown some slight growth in the third quarter, it's not making a difference to your aver- age consumer." Although many people are planning to cut back on their spending or to spend the same amount on gifts as last year, Rhode said some people will in- evitably spend more than they had originally planned. "As much as people say they are going to cut back on their spending, what they say and what they do can often be two very dif- ferent things," he said. "Even though most people have an idea of how much they are planning to spend, many of them never devel- op a plan about what kind of gifts they are going to buy. After wan- dering around the mall picking up things here and there, they often get home to a much larger bill than they had originally anticipat- ed." Although the average projec- tion of spending by consumers was $722 this year, almost 20 per- cent of those surveyed said they didn't have any idea of how much they were going to spend. "Those who don't have a dollar figure in their mind for their holi- day purchases are going to be the most surprised when they end up tallying the total for their gifts," Rhode said. "Having a plan and sticking with it can save hundreds of dollars, giving you a more en- joyable and less stressful holiday season." Some holiday shopping tips from Myvesta include the follow- ing: Carry only two cards when shopping. Use one with a zero balance for purchases that will be paid off in full. Use the other, low-interest rate card for purchas- es that will be paid off over three to six months. Record all purchases in a checkbook register. Even if checks are not used for the pur- chase, subtract the amount. That way, when the bill arrives, the money will be in the checking ac- count to pay the bill in full. Avoid skip-payment offers that cause you to pay more inter- est and face larger bills. Continued on page 71 Use strategies to avoid incurring holiday debt Every year during the holidays, many people spend more money than they anticipated. "I get many calls in January from people who are trying to pay off what they spent in November and December," said Maria Pippidis, Universi- ty of Delaware Cooperative Extension educa- tor for family and consumer sciences. According to Pippidis, out-of-control, budg- et-busting spending during the winter holiday season is not uncommon. In a recent survey, consumers reported paying out an average of $474, and 20 percent of families headed by people 30 to 44 years old spent more than $1,000 at this time of year. Pippidis admits it is easy to overspend dur- ing the holidays. In addition to the cost of pur- chasing gifts, extra expenses during the holi- days often include long distance telephone calls, extra travel, buying and mailing holiday greeting cards, and the cost of preparing spe- cial meals or hosting parties. How can people get in charge of spending before the bills add up? "Santa had the right idea: Make a list and check it twice," Pippidis said. She advises making a gift-giving list and another list for other items needed before preparing a budget that includes the amount of money earmarked for each person as well as some gift ideas within that range, and the ex- pected expenditures on other holiday items. Afterward, the list should be double checked to ensure everyone is included. "To be sure you stay within your means, add up what you plan to spend, and compare it to how much money you have budgeted to spend on the holidays," Pippidis said. "Remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money to find that perfect gift for someone," she said. "Hundreds of great gifts can be pur- chased or made by hand for under $10." Even for those who have started their holi- day shopping, Pippidis says that it is not too late to take inventory of what they have pur- chased. Look at receipts and identify how much has already spent and how much is left to spend. She also suggests using cash instead of adding to credit debt. 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