Holiday Headshots

Three Simple Ways to Curb Your December Spending

by Rick Emerson

December 5th, 2011

Winter can be a blessing for those battling the undead: falling temperatures slow the creatures' approach, and –just as importantly– help to keep you at home, greatly reducing the number of external threats you must face.

The yuletide months aren't without their peril, however. The energy and risk required to replenish your supplies can easily turn miscalculation into mortal danger.

In a Zombie Economy, the threats are just as real; surviving to see another year requires vigilance. Below are three straightforward ways to outlast holiday hazards:

1) Have your bank turn off overdrafting.

This is to keep you from accidentally racking up massive fees and penalties while shopping. (Example: you buy some tinsel for five dollars; your account has insufficient funds; your bank is happy to cover the difference…for a thirty-five dollar fee, which means your five-dollar tinsel just cost you forty dollars.)

Tell your bank to disallow overdrafting altogether – to block any purchase for which there isn't enough money in the account. And make sure they confirm this change in writing/email.

(Note: this is primarily for debit-card transactions; paper checks might not be given the same scrutiny.)

In a Zombie Economy, the threats are real – and are constantly searching for a weak spot in your defenses. Surviving to see another year requires determined vigilance.

2) Keep a running tally as you shop for gifts.

When purchases are made via credit card, it's easy to lose sight of how much debt you're accruing.

Keep track of what you're spending, and do it on paper. (No need for hyper-specifics – just round the figures and add them as you go.) If you're actually aware of your total spending –if you see the figures passing two hundred, three hundred, or four hundred dollars– it's a lot easier to step back and really think about where your money is going.

3) Give more cards...fewer presents.

The one good thing about the recession might be this: it's your best-ever opportunity to trim your gift list.

We've all got someone (possibly many someones) to whom we give gifts out of a sense of obligation and/or preemptive guilt ("What will they think if I don't get them anything?")

This year, no one will question anyone who's more focused with their gift-giving…and you will be amazed and how little drama it causes. Send a card, a note, or a handwritten letter – the recipient will be happy, you'll have added a personal touch to your holiday interactions, and you have that particular gifting obligation off your back forever.

Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for CNN Radio who also reports for CNN.com and CNN television. She works -and spends a good deal of time employing survival strategies in- the US Capitol, where she has covered extensive financial issues, including the collapse of 2008 and the Wall Street reform bill passed in 2010. Lisa has also worked for the Associated Press in Washington, and WIS-TV and WBTW-TV in South Carolina.

Email: lisa [at] zombieeconomics.com

Media requests / interview inquiries: info [at] zombieeconomics.com

Rick Emerson is a radio and television broadcaster based in Portland, Oregon. He is the host of The Rick Emerson Show, which has enraptured/annoyed listeners since 1998, and of KRCW-TV’s Outlook Portland. He is also the author and star of the one-man show Bigger than Jesus: The Diary of a Rock and Roll Fan, as well as the feature-film of the same name, and has displayed his limited acting ability on such television programs as Leverage.

Email: rick [at] zombieeconomics.com

Media requests / interview inquiries: info [at] zombieeconomics.com

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