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BMO Harris: Keep Your Spending From Snowballing This Holiday Season

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Nov 18, 2013) - Holiday shoppers in the U.S. will have less time than usual to stock up on gifts, with a later Thanksgiving leading to a shorter shopping window than in years past. Despite this, BMO Economics projects that U.S. consumer spending should continue to grow at a modest two percent during the holiday season -- similar to last year.

"Household finances are in much better shape with household debt down by more than a trillion dollars since its peak, and climbing home and equity prices creating a wealthier consumer base," said Michael Gregory, Deputy Chief Economist and Head of U.S. Economics, BMO Capital Markets. "We're also starting to see some improvement in the job market. That being said, consumer confidence has taken a hit and is at a two-year low -- possibly a result of uncertainty in Washington as of late."

On average, holiday sales have increased 3.3 percent over the last decade, according to the National Retail Federation; the shopping season can represent as much as 20 to 40 percent of annualized sales.

"The holidays often have you reaching for your wallet more than usual; if you don't track where the dollars are going, it can mean paying off a large credit card bill well into the new year," said Wallace Harris Jr., Regional President, BMO Harris Bank. "We encourage shoppers to plan ahead and prepare for these extra costs. That way, they can have peace of mind by knowing what to expect when they get their monthly statement."

For those heading to the mall over the next few weeks, BMO Harris offers advice for managing your money during the giving season:

  • Stick to a Budget: Make a list and check it twice. Include each gift recipient and approximate cost, and avoid wavering from what you have planned
  • Save Up: Make an effort to put money aside. Instead of buying a coffee every morning, or going out for meals, put those extra dollars in a savings account that you can use for gifts.
  • Cut the Extra Trimmings: Keep an eye out for the inevitable sales that come out around Black Friday, Super Saturday and Cyber Monday. Suggest doing a gift exchange rather than getting presents  ;for each person
  • Use Tools to Stay on Track: BMO Harris Total Look is an online tool that lets you set spending and savings goal and keeps track of where your money is going
  • Plan Your Travel: If you're flying to see family, book early or be flexible with your dates and times to get the best deal. Or, consider a "staycation" and spend the holidays in your hometown

About BMO Harris Bank

BMO Harris Bank provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions through over 600 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. BMO Harris Bank's commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the U.S. For more information about BMO Harris Bank, go to the company fact sheet. Banking products and services are provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A. and are subject to bank or credit approval. BMO Harris Bank® is a trade name used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. BMO Harris Bank is part of BMO Financial Group, a North American financial organization with approximately 1,600 branches, and $549 billion in assets (as of July 31, 2013).

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Alexis Brown