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Christmas is coming: save now

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Monday, September 26, 2011
Posted: 4 pm ET

Three months and counting. That's how long consumers have to complete their holiday shopping before Dec. 25, 2011.

Three months might sound like plenty of time, but nearly one-third of consumers start the holiday season with no savings for the extra travel, gifts, decorations, meals and so on that they purchase during the last few months of the year.

That's according to a new IBOPE Zogby International survey conducted by TransUnion, a Chicago-based credit reporting bureau. Of the 2,127 adults surveyed, 32 percent said they don't save up money in advance for their holiday-related expenses.

Of course, some of those folks might opt out of the national holiday shopping spree. But for those who participate without savings, holiday shopping all too often means using credit cards and opening new charge accounts, resulting in a major debt hangover in January, TransUnion noted in a statement.

Heather Battison, senior director of education at TransUnion, said consumers should figure out how much they plan to spend and start setting aside a portion of each paycheck now.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

Make a list. A holiday gift list should feature not just a total budget, but also a list of names and specific dollar amounts for each gift. Stick to the list to avoid overspending.

Save up. Divide the total budget by the number of paychecks you'll receive between now and when you'll start shopping. For example, if you plan to spend $600 and will receive six paychecks between now and Thanksgiving, set aside $100 from each paycheck.

Shop ahead. Check local advertisements and circulars and purchase gifts that are on sale in advance to be wrapped now and given later.

Keep saving. Don't neglect your other savings goals to splurge on holiday spending. Continue to save a portion of each paycheck for unexpected medical bills, car repairs and other emergencies.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff

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