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It’s officially the Holiday Season! Traditionally, the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping goes into full swing the day after Thanksgiving. With many brick and mortar stores as well as online sites having storewide sales in effect for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, who can’t resist taking advantage? On top of storewide sales, there are many “Buy Now, Pay Later” options offered by stores and even apps, like Affirm and Klarna. “Buy Now, Pay Later” allows you to make a purchase by dividing your total payment over a series of installments, so that you don’t have to make the full payment at the time of purchase. It’s a great option to use IF you use it wisely! However, using the “Buy Now, Pay Later” option without considering your regular, monthly financial obligations could cause you to incur additional fees and plunge you into unnecessary debt. So let’s use financial wisdom this holiday season! Read on to see how…

Before planning your shopping list, know your budget! If you’ve never done a budget before, here’s how: Start with figuring out your monthly, net income amount (the amount of money you have after taxes have been taken out). Using this amount, subtract your regular, monthly bills (this includes subscriptions, groceries, transportation, medications, etc…). The amount leftover is what you can use to save and/or spend on fun things for yourself and your family.

Now, here’s how to apply this to your holiday shopping. Knowing your budget, now you have an idea of what you can comfortably spend without going into additional debt. For those must-have big ticket items you wish to purchase, that’s where the “Buy Now, Pay Later” option could come in handy. However, if you are currently struggling to pay your regular, monthly bills, this is NOT the option for you! Some people avoid this fiscal fiasco by putting money away, a little at a time, months in advance so that they’ll have the money they need, to get what they want. Check out this NerdWallet article that breaks down “Buy Now, Pay Later” in more detail:

Your financial health is as important as your physical, emotional and mental health. You work hard for your money so make it work hard for you! Spend wisely this holiday season to ensure you start the new year in good financial health.