We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Did you participate in any Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales? The holiday retail frenzy is in full effect, and it seems like every year it gets bigger and crazier. Forget the turkey – some people skip Thanksgiving dinner altogether so that they can line up earlier at their favorite stores. For them, it’s clear that Black Friday is the truly notable “holiday”.

Though Black Friday has passed this year, the next few weeks will be very busy for many retailers. Shoppers want to take advantage of holiday discounts and pick up items for those on their gift list. Before you join the masses and go into shopping mode, remember what the holidays are really about and that no purchase is ever worth going into debt over.

Here are a few reminders to help you stay on track:

Shopping in crowds makes you do crazy things.
Remember the post on how shopping in crowds leads people to make poor spending decisions? Well, it’s true. When you see everyone grabbing things off the shelves, it makes you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t follow suit. This year, be rational about how you spend your money, shop with your mind, and not just with your heart.

Set a budget and stay on track.
Like in many of our posts, we suggest setting a hard limit for yourself, budgeting carefully for the things you need to buy, and only spending as much as you have saved up. If you didn’t plan to buy something and it’s more than you budgeted for, don’t get it – no matter what a “great deal” it is. Nothing is more important than safeguarding your financial future, and that starts with making wise decisions in your day-to-day life.

The holidays are about spending time with loved ones.
Sixty years ago, Black Friday didn’t even exist. Now, it’s become a full-fledged consumer holiday. I still remember a time when stores didn’t open on Thanksgiving Day, and all I could do was hang out with my family and friends. It was fun, and I still carry those memories with me today. Isn’t that’s the whole point of the holidays anyway – spending time with loved ones? I think so!

It’s not OK to go into debt over holiday shopping.
I get that people want to show their love and appreciation to others by giving gifts during the holidays. Why not focus on non-monetary gifts instead? Besides, meaningful experiences are worth more than anything money can buy. For some people, even if money is tight, they still feel the NEED to buy stuff. The quick solution is to charge it, but to put it very bluntly, if you can’t pay for something without the help of credit, you can’t afford it…so don’t buy it.

The holidays are a fun time of year, and there’s no reason to taint it with the stresses of debt. Don’t let gadgets, trendy clothes, and other temptations distract you from the true meaning of the holidays. This season, spend smart and don’t go over budget. You’ll thank yourself for it later, because you’ll be setting yourself up for a great financial year in 2014!