It is the season for holiday gift buying, so it is important to establish a budget and make sure you do not ruin your normal cash flow.

Stores and online merchants know how to lure us into buying impulse items. Sometimes, they offer deals that seem too good to pass up. The problem is all purchases with plastic credit cards have to be repaid in cash. You should try not to spend more on credit than you can pay in full in January.

Credit card interest rates can be 18% or more. Paying the minimum required amount can take years to pay off.

Sometimes, families hold Secret Santa drawings in which you pull one name out of a hat to buy a present for. Another common option is deciding that family members will buy presents only for the younger members. A child’s parents may be able to give you an idea of a preferred gift. This way, it is quality instead of quantity.

You just need to be sure they do not give everyone the same gift idea. I remember years ago, different family members asked my grandmother what grandpa would like. Surprisingly on Christmas Day, he got to open five footstools.

Gift cards are popular options because they offer wide choices and are easy to mail. As we talked about several weeks ago, be careful and look to be sure they have not been tampered with. When buying gifts, getting a gift receipt makes it easier if the gift must be exchanged. While I am not advocating it, some people re-gift an item they received and did not want.

Needless to say, do not re-gift to the person who gave you the original gift.

If cash is a problem, sometimes you can make a gift. Maybe you have special crafting skills or can bake something delicious. Sometimes, you may be able to help complete a chore or home repair project. This extra help might be really appreciated during these busy times.

Maybe you want to do something special, like visiting someone who is alone. Maybe invite them over to family dinner. Christmas spirit sometimes gets lost in gift buying, when we know it is much more than that. Take some time and enjoy the Christmas joy.

In case you were wondering, if you wanted to buy all of the gifts mentioned in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” this year’s cost would be $38,993.59. Every year, someone at PNC calculates this cost. I know this is a little out of my budget and this price does not include feeding all of the animals.

Have a great holiday season!

Gary Boatman is a Monessen-based certified financial planner and the author of “Your Financial Compass: Safe passage through the turbulent waters of taxes, income planning and market volatility.”

To submit columns on financial planning or investing, email Rick Shrum at

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.