Preventing a holiday hangover

Americans will race to stores this holiday season. But that intoxicating deal of the day could lead to a financial hangover: more debt. Here are three pointers to help avoid spending too much around the holidays.

As soon as you pull an item off the shelf, count to three. Take three seconds to ask yourself: why am I buying this? A short, Jon Stewart-style moment of Zen might spare you from caving to costly impulse buys – the kind that will drive holiday spending to $805 per person this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

The most valuable gift you can give might be your time– at no cost to you. Tap into loved ones’ favorite activities. Tell that baker in the family that you will spend two hours in the kitchen with them; join the fisherman at the lake; commit to jogging with that runner. Want to give something tangible? Mock up a gift certificate: “Bearer entitled to a one hour run, no expiration.” True friends will relish quality time with you more than any gadget or garment.

A huge spread of presents under the tree is a sight to see. But do you really want to go into debt for a photo op? Don't buy extra gifts for appearance sake alone. If you insist on creating a mountain of torn wrapping paper, consider breaking gifts apart. Open that three-pack of shirts and wrap them individually. Or, pad the tree skirt with necessities that you will end up buying all year anyway. (Think underwear!)

Editor’s note: Chris Chmura was one of 28 consumer experts that joined forces with Valpak/ to combat the ‘Holiday Hangover.’

You can see the full project by clicking here.