A reader has skipped Black Friday and Cyber Monday — and every other shopping day so far.

Question: I can’t handle the crowds on Black Friday, and I’m not in the mood to sit in front of a computer and shop on Cyber Monday. My wife says I miss all the best deals by shopping last minute, but I don’t think so.

More importantly, my wife never makes out a holiday shopping budget, and I think that’s more important than anything else. She also opens all these store credit card accounts to get an extra bonus, but there’s got to be a catch to that, right?

What do you think, Howard? Got any advice so we don’t fight over buying stuff for other people?

— Mark in Indiana

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

I don’t like to take sides in marital disputes, but I have to agree with you, Mark. It’s never too late to shop for the holidays. Sales for the holidays continue until Christmas Eve. Of course, if you are shopping online you may miss delivery by Christmas if you wait too long.

Scoring a great deal on Black Friday doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the budget for it. Even if you get 50 percent of the original price, paying for it with a credit card you can’t pay off for six months will eat up all your savings.

As for those store credit cards, those are indeed a double-edged sword — they can really cut you. Debt.com tackled that topic in Just Say ‘Bah, Humbug’ To Store Credit Cards.

Because I hate to see couples fighting anytime, but especially during the holidays, I recorded some advice for you and your wife, but it applies to all families…

The holiday season’s here.

A couple quick tips to make it an even better holiday season.

Go through and don’t get sidetracked at the cash register buying extra stuff. That extra stuff adds up. Also, make sure you don’t get seduced by the credit card offers at the cash register.

You can save 10%, but the fact of the matter is by the time you end up paying off that credit you may have accrued 25%.
Another thing you need to be aware of the identity thieves are out in droves. So make sure you protect your PIN and all your confidential information.

Prioritize your monthly bills for holiday shopping. A lot of people get caught up in the holiday season and want to buy buy buy. Well let me tell you something. The people that you may not be able to afford a great gift for, they’re going to forgive you, but I can guarantee you that your credit card companies won’t forgive you. Another problem we see when the bills come in make sure you pay them off, and if you can’t, reach out to Debt.com and we will help you find a path out of debt.

I’ll leave you with this advice: the holidays are a perfect time to give yourself a free present: a PFM. That stands for “personal finance manager.” It’s basically an online platform that lets you easily enter your earnings and spending so you can create budgets as painlessly as possible. These programs have been around for a number of years now, and they’re as safe as anything can be online.

There are many budgeting apps to help you manage your finances.  We have reviewed a few such as Mint and YNAB,  Mint has been around longer. How should you choose? Whichever looks nicer to you and easily fits into your lifestyle. Why? Because you’ll be looking at it quite a bit, and if the design appeals to you, you’ll look at it just a little longer.

We have a great guide for learning How to Make a Holiday Budget. It’s never too late to figure out your finances and make a plan. Take the time to sit down together and create a budget for gift-giving this year. When the season is over you can make a better plan and maybe shop for next year while getting all the after-holiday clearance sales now!

To encourage you not to wait too long to shop and save a little money. Did you know there is a Free Shipping Day on December 14th? Thousands of online retailers offer free shipping and guarantee your items by Christmas Eve. Here’s a list of participating sites

Budgeting isn’t just for the holidays, make a budget for all year and keep your financial stress low.

Have a debt question? Can’t find what you need to know? We can! Submit any debt or finance question you have, and we’ll tap a pro who will respond as quickly as possible.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC