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Extending that holiday budget

Shoppers showed up early to get bargains at JC Penney in Price on Black Friday. While that time has passed bargains still exist in great numbers in local stores all over the eastern Utah area. Most retailers are reporting a very good year, particularly compared to last year.

The holiday season can prove an exercise in financial flexibility for many families. While the spirit of the season centers around faith and family, it's easy for families to overdo it when it comes to holiday shopping. Parents can easily find themselves expanding their budgets to ensure their kids get everything on their wish list, while fellow shoppers may easily get lost in finding the perfect gift for family and friends.

While overspending might be a holiday tradition in many families, it's no doubt the most costly as well. Credit cards often allow shoppers to overspend on holiday shopping, making January a cringe-worthy month for shoppers who put too much on plastic during the holidays and get the bills the next month. It's always best to avoid overspending, but there are ways shoppers can extend their budget during the holiday seasons.

•Shop locally. For some this may seem counterintuitive. Many ask "Aren't prices lower over the mountain?" Well yes and no. Shoppers that ask local retailers about prices the see offered over the mountain may find that those who live and work here will give them a similar deal. Also take into account the fact that money spent in the local area stays in the local economy which helps everyone who works here including the shopper spending the money. Finally, while it's fun to go to the malls along the Wasatch Front, it is also a hassle, especially this year with the traffic problems on I-15 in Utah County. It takes a lot more time and certainly gas. And finally, with many more stores and choices the selecton in the metropolitan area can be better, but the temptation to overspend and buy more than one needs is also greater.

•Look for "no interest" deals. "No interest" deals are not necessarily hard to find, but they might be a bit of a misnomer. Larger retailers sometimes offer no interest financing for 12 or 18 months on items that cost above a certain dollar amount. But these deals are only "interest free" for the designated time frame. This means no interest will be charged if the balance is paid in full (there's often a minimum monthly payment) before the 12 or 18 months is up. However, if the balance is not paid in full, shoppers will be responsible for all interest that accrued over that 12- or 18-month period. These "no interest" deals are a great way to extend a holiday budget, but shoppers should make certain they pay the balance off before the grace period is up.

•Comparison shop. As sensible as it seems, many shoppers find little time to comparison shop during the often hectic holiday season. Shoppers looking to extend their budgets, however, should find the time to comparison shop. Significant savings could be had simply by scanning the different flyers in the newspaper. Such efforts only take minutes but could save shoppers hundreds of dollars during the holiday season.

•Go in on gifts with a friend or relative. When holiday shopping, it's perfectly reasonable to share the cost of a gift with a friend or relative. The recipient won't mind if the gift is from one, two, three, or four people, and each gifter will come away satisfied that their loved one got a gift he or she loves and no one's budget was busted.

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