Forget about a white Christmas.
What consumers really want this year is a black Christmas, according to the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or the NFCC.
The idea of a black Christmas is a spin on the term "Black Friday," which refers to the day after Thanksgiving when retailers traditionally expect their sales figures to top the number they need to ensure a profit for the year. Black refers to "in the black" as opposed to "in the red," which indicates a financial loss.
That explained, the NFCC says many consumers are curtailing their holiday spending to keep themselves in the black throughout the season and avoid the shock of credit card debt that puts them in the red in January.
A November poll on the NFCC website found 40 percent of shoppers intend to spend zero -- not a misprint -- on holiday purchases, while 51 percent plan to cut back compared with how much they spent last year.
The poll isn't strictly scientific since the NFCC website naturally attracts people searching for credit counseling information or services. Still, NFCC spokeswoman Gail Cunningham says the results indicate consumers are taking their financial situation seriously and are committed to putting their financial lives in order, even if that means scaling back on holiday purchases.
The NFCC also has some tips to help holiday shoppers stay in the black.
Here's the list:
- Don't make impulse purchases. Resist the temptation to buy something just to mark it off your list. A thoughtless gift isn't worth the paper in which it's wrapped.
- Keep shopping trips short. Know what you want, where you'll get it and how much you'll spend. Get in and out of each store quickly, limiting the temptation to spend more than you'd planned.
- While you're shopping, take frequent breaks and track your spending.
- Don't pay rush shipping charges. Instead, find an alternate gift.
- Ask about the return policy before you buy. If the store offers a gift receipt, include it with the package, making a return simpler for the recipient.
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