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December is a time for holiday cheer, family, and too often, overspending. With a few lists and careful planning, you can avoid going into debt and all the worries that come with overspending.

Where to Start

  1. Make a Budget - Decide how much money you can afford to spend before you make your first purchase. More importantly, stay within your budget! Keep track of your purchases and look over your budget often.
  2. Make a List - Sticking to a budget is easier if you make a list of everyone you need to buy for, what you plan on getting for each person, and how much each gift should cost. Include other holiday expenses such as food, party clothes, decorations, postage, and gift wrap.
  3. Rethink Your List - Remember the reason for the holidays. Is it really to spend the most money or to give the most expensive gifts? Probably not. Thoughtful gifts do not have to be expensive and often mean more than a pricey item. Give an IOU to clean a relative's house. Get a family portrait taken for those doting grandparents. Think homemade- including baked goods, kids' artwork, jewelry, and gift baskets.
  4. Be Thrifty - Look through ads, call around, and search the internet. You can save money just by doing some homework. Online auction sites often sell new or gently used items that cost far less than the item would in a store.
  5. Avoid Using Credit - Credit cards add around 20% in interest to your bill. So use cash as much as possible. If you must use a credit card, pay off the debt as soon as you can.
  6. Plan for Next Year - The Consumer Federation of America suggesst that Christmas Club accounts provide a practical way to save small amounts over time. Ask your credit union or bank to automatically transfer funds from your checking to your Christmas Club account every month. The discipline of saving reinforces your good budget intentions.�

Don't let yourself get buried by debt. If you plan ahead, you can avoid the stress and make the holidays more enjoyable.