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Tips for stretching your holiday budget

6. Be an educated consumer

Comparison-shopping stretches your holiday funds further. Fight the urge to get your shopping over quickly, recommends the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association. Instead, take some extra time to find the best deal before heading off to the stores by scouring catalogs, sales advertisements and the Internet.

Easier said than done. Most people are frazzled with their jobs and busy holiday schedule. They often work right up until Christmas, so their holiday shopping is done last minute, says Adam.

And think twice before you buy. Ask yourself if the gift will be appropriate for the recipient and within your price range. If not, don't buy the gift, particularly if you will have to charge the purchase.

7. Load up your wallet with cash

Leave your credit cards at home. "Spend cash. This will force you to budget and make overspending more obvious," says Dvorkin. According to the CCCS, people spend up to a third more when paying with credit instead of cash. There is no emotional attachment to plastic like there is to cash.

But, if you must use plastic, Myvesta.org suggests that you deduct all your purchases in your checkbook register. That way, when the bill arrives, the money will be in your checking account to pay the bill in full.

8. Use credit judiciously

Shop with no more than two credit cards -- preferably low-interest rate credit cards, not the expensive department store cards. The more cards you use, the harder it is to track spending. Use one with a zero balance for purchases you will pay off in full. Use the other, low-interest rate credit card for purchases you plan to pay off over the next few months, suggests Myvesta.org.

9. Beware of sales pitches

Don't shop under the influence of holiday hype. Retailers work hard to entice you to buy, buy and buy. If you're not careful, you'll spend more than you planned. Don't fall for credit card offers to "skip a payment." You'll just pay more in interest next month. Watch out for the "buy now and pay later" offers that encourage you to spend money you don't have. And, bypass applying for the department store credit card to get a one-time discount.

"Downsize holiday spending, not your holiday joy," says Adam. "Limit the size of your Christmas in terms of gifts, and make it big on meaning -- from family, friends, traditions to creating memories."

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