Make Your Holiday A Merry One-Stretch Your Budget With These Tips

Make a spending plan. Start with a realistic idea of how much you can spend on all your holiday purchases. Make a list of everything you usually buy, from the gifts to food to entertainment to travel expenses, and tally the costs. Don't forget to include things like wrapping paper, cash gifts and extra tips for service providers and holiday cards/postage. As you shop, be sure to track your spending against your plan to ensure you stick to it.

Shop with a list. Know what you want to buy, and go to the store with a list. You can zip through the stores faster and are more apt to avoid impulse buying. When you have finished shopping; stop.

Shop early. The best window for holiday shopping is between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1. An all-out shopping spree leaves you exhausted from shopping, tempting you to buy the next thing you see regardless of cost. Last-minute shoppers are unlikely to save money.

Load up your wallet with cash. Leave your credit cards at home. According to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, 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, 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.

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. Watch out for the "buy now and pay later" offers that encourage you to spend money.

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