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Credit-Smart Ways to Pay for Christmas

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The official start to the holiday shopping season has come and gone and for many, the hunt for the perfect present continues. But, pleasing everyone on your list without emptying your wallet can be tricky.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, it's easy to go a little nuts.

"It really is tempting at Christmas time. We want to show our thanks and appreciation to those we love and those around us," said Reynold Nesiba, an associate professor of economics at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
But, financial experts say that's why it's important to have a plan--and budget--in place long before you go to the stores.

"Now is the perfect time to start saving for next year and to be putting those funds away," said Nesiba.

'"What we find works really well is if you bring cash instead of your credit card or even debit card," said Jason Erickson, a financial planner with Alternative Strategies Group in Sioux Falls.
While cash is the best bet for keeping your credit healthy, experts point out other financing options that do the trick, too, like layaway, which many stores brought back after the recession took hold two years ago.

"It forces you to budget and plan for paying for the item. When you walk out of the store, you own it," said Erickson.
Experts caution against turning to check cashing outlets, car title loan companies, and pawn shops because of high interest rates.

"If you borrow $50, the fee might only be $10 or $15, but 100, 200, 300 percent interest if you calculate it out," said Erickson.
Some say it would be better, but still not good, to take out a line of credit with your bank. Others say if you have no other options, your best deal will be at a pawn shop.

"If you can avoid those places, that's the best possible option, but if you must use it, the pawn shop is the best of the three," said Nesiba.
Experts agree--the best way to keep your holidays merry is to give within your means.

Financial experts suggest giving homemade gifts or volunteering a skill, like babysitting or handiwork, if you can't afford to spend money on everyone on your list.
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