Personal finance expert Lynette Khalfani-Cox wants to help people navigate holiday shopping during these tough economic times.
"The Money Coach," is encouraging consumers to be judicious in their spending and to shop smarter.
"I don't want to be the person who is going to be the killjoy. I certainly don't want to suggest to people that you should not spend at all this holiday season," she said during a recent stop in Philadelphia.
"If you are going to be out there shopping, just be real smart about how you're spending your dollars this holiday season," said Khalfani-Cox, who has offered her financial wisdom on CNN and television shows such as "Good Morning America" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
With that in mind, she encourages women to forgo high-end specialty stores and opt for frugal fashions at retail chains like Fashion Bug or Lane Bryant.
"I'm a total recessionista," Khalfani Cox admitted. "I'm that girl who likes to look great but I'm budget conscious."
For those who are heading out to the malls, she suggests that they use a stopwatch to keep track of time and bring along a budget-minded friend. She also suggested that shoppers utilize layaway plans instead of credit cards.
"It's okay to get small things with a big impact," said Khalfani-Cox, noting that accessories such as belts or cosmetic jewelry, beauty and cosmetic products make inexpensive gifts for women.
When it comes to shopping for children, she encourages parents to use the holiday season as a teachable moment.
"Parents should not feel guilty about not splurging on their kids, especially during this downturn. If anything we should use this as an opportunity to talk to them about the true meaning of the season and about the reality of (their) finances," said the mother of three.
For instance, one of her favorite gifts for children is the Money Savvy Pig – a piggy bank that has four chambers in it: one for saving, one for spending, one for donations and one for investing.
These days, tech-savvy teenagers are hoping for Christmas gifts such as the latest cell phone on the market. Instead of splurging for a fancy phone, Khalfani recommends purchasing a pre-paid inexpensive model as a possible alternative.
"It's teaching them a little bit about delayed gratification and it's helping them to appreciate lower priced products," Khalfani-Cox said.
Last Christmas, she set a limit of $100 to spend on gifts for her three children.
"I don't want the kids to think of the holidays as shopping galore," she said.
As someone who was $100,000 in credit card debt, Khalfani-Cox has been down the road of overspending on gifts, presents and things that she didn't need. After paying off credit cards in three years, she wrote the New York Times bestseller "Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom."
For those who are striving not to open their wallets during the season, Cox suggested tapping into your creative side and making something artistic such as a scrapbook or taking a collection of baseball cards and cataloging them in a nice display.
She concludes, "Get creative this holiday season. Nobody is going to bat an eye if you make something for them as opposed to buying something for them."