Shopping deals are popping up earlier and earlier this year, even as the pandemic continues to affect Americans’ spending habits. The majority of shoppers say they plan to shop online this year both out of convenience and due to safety concerns, according to several surveys. As you begin your holiday shopping you might be wondering whether now is a good time to buy with debit (or cash) vs. credit. As with most financial advice, the best decision for your pocketbook will vary based on your personal situation, but these finance and shopping experts have some tips on how to decide what’s right for you.
RELATED: How to Save Money During the Holidays
Worried about your budget amid COVID? Use a debit card or cash.
If you’ve lost your job during COVID or you’re struggling to make ends meet during a furlough, spend with caution. Experts across the board say that now is the time to pinch pennies if you’re concerned about where money for housing, food, or other necessities will come from.
To be sure you aren’t spending beyond your means, Sara Rathner, a credit card expert with Nerdwallet, suggests setting a holiday shopping budget and spending it with cash (or the digital alternative, your debit card). If you have a hard time curbing your spending, you can even set up a separate bank account or bucket (or an envelope with cash) just for holiday spending and stock it with the allotted holiday spending amount.
“And once the money is gone, it’s gone,” she says. “It might mean you have a simpler holiday, but it will also mean that you have a holiday you’re not paying off well into 2021.”
A NerdWallet study showed the average family spends $1,100 on credit card interest each year, which is money you’ll need if things are tight. Avoid racking up credit card debt every holiday season, but particularly this one, when money might be tighter than ever. Similarly, if you’re worried you could potentially lose your job in the near future due to budget cuts or the economic fallout, be sure you have your emergency savings account ready before spending a dime.
“The emergency fund that’s available is not for Christmas presents but for keeping a roof over your head, keeping food on the table,” Rathner says.
Worried about the virus itself? Use a debit card or credit card.
If you’re concerned about hitting the stores alongside other shoppers this year, skip the hubbub and shop online with your debit card. “There’s a bit of hesitation to actually physically going to the store this year,” says Sara Skirboll, RetailMeNot’s shopping and trends expert.
According to a recent CreditCards.com survey, 71 percent of shoppers say they plan to shop online this year. That’s up 20 percent from last year, says Ted Rossman, an industry analyst with CreditCards.com.
“The pandemic is part of it, of course, but that’s not by any means the whole story,” Rossman says. “People also cited convenience as an