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When Holiday Debt Lingers Long After the Gifts Are Forgotten

Got debt? I could be wrong, but if you’re revolving a big credit card balance, I’m guessing at least some of it is holiday related.

Sadly, holiday debt can hang on long after the gifts are forgotten.

So, what’s the problem here? Procrastination. When it comes to Christmas, the longer you wait to shop, the more you’ll spend. The more you spend, the more likely you are to look to credit for the funds.

Everyone procrastinates a little, but some of us procrastinate about everything. Why do we do that? Internal conflict.

We feel overwhelmed. We put a lot of holiday pressure on ourselves. But then add to it the expectations of others and it can be overwhelming — even paralyzing. So, we do nothing until it’s so late that our only choice is to spend whatever it takes to squeak by.

We overestimate our time. From where we sit now, Christmas seems far away. We tell ourselves we have plenty of time — more than enough.

We overestimate our abilities. Procrastinators have an unrealistic sense of time. If we believe we can finish the task in, say, three hours, we put it off until only three hours remain. That leaves no margin, no room for error — no allowance for the law of life that says things rarely go as planned.

We have to do it perfectly. Experts tell us that at the root of procrastination is perfectionism. Because we feel we have to do everything perfectly, we do nothing rather than run the risk of failing.

We say we work better under pressure. Waiting until the last minute can provide quite an adrenaline rush. Procrastinators believe they cannot operate without that creative surge, and so they sit back and wait for it to kick in.

The secret to overcoming procrastination is figuring out what’s behind the fear. Start by identifying the situations that have left you paralyzed by procrastination in the past.

As it relates to Christmas specifically, ask yourself: What price have I paid in past years for waiting until the last minute? Do I really want to pay that price again next year?

If the answer to the last question is yes, forget I even brought it up. You don’t need to be thinking about the holidays yet.

If on the other hand, you are not willing to go into debt this year, here are simple steps to stop procrastinating.

Get started. Once you are in motion, it’s easier to keep going.

Write it down. Reduce your plans to paper. Seeing things in black and white eliminates the unknown, which tends to cause a lot of fear.

Work with the time you have. Make a simple timeline, and then break the project down into small, manageable parts. Even five minutes is enough time to get something done when you have a plan.

Set a series of small deadlines. For example, give yourself a date one week from today to have your gift list written. Share your deadline with someone who will nudge you toward accountability.

Find the simpler way. Now, while you are still months away from experiencing the powerful emotions of the season, determine ways you can reasonably scale back and simplify.

Be opportunistic. Whether it’s picking up shells along the shore to adorn a picture frame or finding a bargain collectible at a tag sale during your fall travels, take full advantage of the opportunities.

Be realistic. Set reasonable limits for both time and money, and then stick to them.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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