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Tips for stretching your holiday budget

How about you? Do you plan and save for the holidays? Or do you just punt and end up paying off the holiday bills just as the fireflies are lighting the sky in the summer?

Here are some tips to help you wrap up your holiday spending without overspending.

1. Make a spending plan

Start with a realistic idea of how much you can spend on all your holiday purchases. Make a list of everything you usually buy, from the gifts to food to entertainment to travel expenses, and tally the costs.

"If you don't budget and set a specific dollar limit, then your spending grows and grows and grows. In January you'll be horrified by how much you've spent," says Mari Adam, a Certified Financial Planner in Boca Raton, Fla. "And, don't get locked into the thought that how much you spend measures how good of a person you are."

2. Know your limits

Not many can afford to shop carte blanche, so don't try! Make a list of gift recipients and decide how much you want to spend on each person. If you're unable to spend as much on gifts this year, prioritize for whom you really want to buy gifts. Then communicate your plans to family and friends, says Adam. "If you tell them you won't be exchanging gifts this year, then you won't feel embarrassed if they purchase you a gift." You want to be able to pay off your holiday expenses within three months after the holidays, four at the most.

3. Track your spending

You've made a spending plan -- great! But if you don't keep track of all your purchases and make sure you're staying within your budget, you've wasted your time. Write down everything you spend on holiday clothing, cards, postage, wrapping paper and decorations, reminds Dvorkin. "Don't forget that these holiday expenses add up and need to be tracked on your budget."

4. Shop with a list

Know what you want to buy, and go to the store with a list. You can zip through the stores faster and are more apt to avoid impulse buying, says Dvorkin. When you have finished shopping, stop.

 

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5. Shop early

"The best window for holiday shopping is between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1," says Dvorkin. "Don't wait until the last minute. Give yourself time to compare prices and find the best deals." An all-out shopping spree leaves you exhausted from shopping, tempting you to buy the next thing you see regardless of cost. Last-minute shoppers are unlikely to save money.

 

 

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