AMHERST - It happens more often than people want to admit - spending yourself into debt during the Christmas season.
But there are ways to avoid debt during the holidays.
Robert Bird, certified financial planner, says one of the biggest things people can do to avoid the red is by cutting up their plastic.
"Cut it up or throw it away," he said, noting that a lot of people like the easiness of instant gratification that comes with credit cards.
He said while it makes some sense to transfer from a card with a high interest rate to one with lower, it's just a temporary fix.
"Christmas comes at the same time every year, and people are going to find themselves in the same situation this year as they did last year," he said.
"If you think you really want those expensive things, start counting 20's instead of flipping out the plastic."
By doing so, he said, could show the buyer just how much it is they're spending on the item and might even save some debt problems.
"It's all about planning. The only way to avoid debt is to consciously do so."
One option, says Bird, is to sign up for a Canada Savings Bond through payroll deduction in the amount that you normally spend at Christmas.
"If you can't afford $25 a pay, or $50 a pay, how do you think you're going to afford $1,000, or $500, at Christmastime?"
Bird, like many other people, begins his holiday shopping earlier in the year.
"If you're constantly looking for bargains, you can save yourself some money," he said, adding he even buys things when stores are going out of business.
He also said, however, that what many people want sometimes is for the other person's patience and time.
"It sounds almost hokey, but give gifts from the heart that are homemade," he said. "It's something of yours with some sentimental value for you and the recipient."
John Eisner, president of the Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada, said people should make their list and check it twice, just like Santa is said to do.
"When consumers have a strategy for Christmas spending, it can often make a huge impact on how they will start the New Year," he said.
The organization recommends deciding how much you can afford to spend before prioritizing a gift list with an estimated dollar amount - all the while including a budget for meals, entertaining, decorations and wrapping paper.
"One thing I suggested before that was such a good idea I followed it myself, is to put a toonie each week into a jar," said Bird. "If I couldn't remember or was unsure if I had put it in, I'd put another toonie in. The last time I checked, there was $138 in a jar for my son."
Or, $1 per day would give people more than $300 to use toward Christmas shopping.