Have Yourself a Budget-Friendly Christmas; 9 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Spending (Part 1)

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Have Yourself a Budget-Friendly Christmas!

Have Yourself a Budget-Friendly Christmas!

The holiday season has become synonymous with shopping. “Black Friday” has become an unofficial national holiday to rival Thanksgiving, “Cyber Monday” is attracting more attention as people look for great deals online, and the month of December is full of holiday parties (with friends, at school, at the office, for family) and all the gift-giving that goes with it.

Whether you think it’s the most wonderful time of the year, or whether you can’t wait till January, it’s undeniable that the Christmas season has turned into a non-stop celebration of consumer spending. In fact, holiday shoppers spent an average of $365.34 per person during Black Friday 2010, according to the National Retail Federation, up from $343.31 on the day after Thanksgiving in 2009.

While it’s great to celebrate the holidays and share generosity with your loved ones, every year too many families get overextended financially due to too much shopping. What are some ways to keep this holiday season “merry” for your finances?

Set a budget. Sixty-nine percent  of U.S. adults who are planning to do holiday shopping are not planning to set a budget, according to a survey from Harris Interactive. This is a mistake. Without setting a budget in advance, it’s easy to spend more than you ever imagined – and you’ll be paying off those bills for months to come. Before you start shopping, sit down and make a list of all the holiday gift recipients on your list – who do you want to buy for, and how much do you want to spend?

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Make a list – and stick to it. With a clear shopping list showing exactly what you want to buy, you’ll be less likely to overspend or make expensive impulse purchases. Ask your kids to make wish lists of the gifts they’d most like to see under the tree on Christmas morning. Find out what your family members really want – it might be more affordable than your original idea; instead of high-priced electronics, maybe they’d be just as happy with a nice sweater or a new pair of jeans. Making a list also helps you avoid forgetting anything important – just like Santa Claus, be sure to “check it twice.”

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Cut back on the gift-buying pressure. Many people spend too much on holiday gifts because they feel pressured to do so – there is an unspoken assumption in many families that giving gifts is a way to show love, and they don’t want to disappoint anyone. Set expectations ahead of time – if you’re trying to save money during the holidays, enlist the help of your family and friends. Explain to your children, “We’re trying to have a simpler, less-stressful Christmas this year – and we’re going to stay within a budget for gift shopping.”

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on gifts for dozens of extended family members, arrange for a simple, lower-cost gift exchange, where everyone in your family is assigned to give gifts to one other family member. Host a simple gift exchange with a $20 limit – don’t put pressure on yourself (or your family) to buy expensive, extravagant gifts.

You might find that one of the best ways to save money on holiday shopping is to re-think your holiday shopping priorities. In part two of this article, we’ll explore some other ways to celebrate the true spirit of the season while shoring up your family finances!

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For more information on how you can save money, improve your credit and live a more financially secure lifestyle, including tools like a personalized Debt Payoff Planner to show you get out of debt faster and a Credit Personal Trainer to help you whip your credit into shape for the new year, visit Quizzle.com.

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