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You buy gifts for friends and relatives every holiday season, so why not give yourself the gift of financial freedom. I’m Kristin Arnold with your Bankrate.com Personal Finance Minute.

This holiday season it may be more important than ever to avoid debt hang-over in the New Year. With many uncertainties in the economy, it literally pays to set and stay on budget.

If you know your restraint is weak and your money reserve too small, start building up a cash cushion now. Little things like packing your lunch, eating in for dinner and brewing your own coffee instead of buying it can save you a decent amount.

Most people start off their holiday planning with a list of people to buy for – wrong move! Start by deciding how much you can spend – on everything – from gifts, to decorations, holiday meals, wrapping and mailing expenses – and don’t forget the tree!

Just like Saint Nick – check your list twice to decide if your budget will accommodate everything. If not, you need to make some cuts.

Pick paper over plastic. Stay on the cash course by taking your budgeted money out of the bank using it to pay for everything.

When you’re cash is gone, your shopping ends. For Bankrate.com, I’m Kristin Arnold.