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Do you have holiday budgeting tips?

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Wise men and women plan before making holiday purchases. To avoid overspending, consider these tips. • If it is necessary to cut back on spending this year, communicate that with your family. It doesn’t mean the holidays have to change dramatically. Families should discuss what is important to them this season and be willing to make changes if necessary. • Set a holiday budget and keep track of what you spend. Include all expenditures -- not just the cost of gifts. Figure costs of food, entertainment, decorations, travel expenses, holiday cards and postage as well as the cost of new clothes for the season. If possible, look at how much you spent last year to help set your budget. • Set spending limits for each person on your list as well as for the other items in your holiday plan. Write your limit on an envelope and keep it handy. When you make a purchase, subtract the amount from the limit and place the receipt in the envelope.

• Decide how you are going to pay for holiday spending. If you plan to use only cash, leave your credit cards at home when shopping. If you write checks, record each check in your register and figure the balance before writing another check. This will help you stay within your limit.

• If you need or want to use a credit card, choose one to use for all your holiday spending. You can control your spending on one card much more easily than on three or four cards. Check your latest statement for each card to determine the annual interest rate. Use the one with the lowest rate. Only charge what you can afford to pay off each month. Pay close attention to your credit limit and understand the charge card guidelines. • Avoid impulse shopping. Start shopping far enough in advance that you will not be pressured to buy the first item you see in the store or catalog. This allows you to compare similar items and take advantage of sales.

• Talk with family and friends about drawing names for a gift exchange, setting dollar limits on gifts or not exchanging gifts among adults. Make gifts by hand or give gift certificates promising your time or talents. Offer gifts for such things as babysitting, car washing or a particular talent, such as photography. Give family keepsakes or pictures as gifts to create memories as well.

• If entertaining family and friends consumes a large part of your holiday budget, consider pitch-in dinners instead of shouldering all the work and expense yourself. You could also invite people for dessert and coffee or a small luncheon, brunch or breakfast.

• Though this holiday season is already under way, it is not too early to start planning for next year. Think ahead and take advantage of after-holiday sales. Good budgeting should take place all year long, not just at the holidays.

Posted on 14 Nov 2003

Barbara Rowe
Family Resource Management Specialist

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