Budgeting TipsThanksgiving is almost here, and that means holiday shopping is right around the corner. If you’re worried about keeping your expenses on track, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure you enjoy the holidays and start the New Year without worrying about too much debt.

A Quick Checkup
The best place to begin is to review what you spent last year. Dig up those old credit card records and checkbook registers, and then add up what you spent on holiday expenses. Don’t forget to include gift wrapping, cards, postage, seasonal entertainment costs, special occasion clothing and food you bought while shopping.

Next, evaluate your purchases. Which ones would you make again and which could you avoid? Can you reduce your gift buying list or the amounts you spent on each purchase? Being less extravagant with your selections and looking around for the best deals can help. Don’t do anything “last minute” as it is always more expensive.

Time to Build a Budget
Once you’ve figured out how many purchases you plan to make and what you’ll spend, you can create a budget.

Your budget should be based on money you have, not money you can borrow. What you allocate for holiday spending should be based on what you’ve saved or what you will save from now until the time you start shopping. If you are still paying off charges from last year, consider avoiding credit cards to make this year’s purchases.

Also, if your income or expenses have changed in the last year, be sure to take that into consideration as you’re planning your budget for this year.

Stick to Your List
Create a list of recipients, along with columns for the gifts you intend to buy and the dollar amount you expect to spend. As you buy, keep track of the results. If you overspend on one gift, make up the difference elsewhere. And watch out for impulse shopping—it can easily ruin your good intentions.

It’s tempting to look at budgeting merely as a restriction. But the reality is your budget is there for your protection. Sticking to it will make you more comfortable before and after the holidays, and free you from the stress of accumulating new debt. When you look at it this way, budgeting is liberating.

By planning in advance, you can give yourself the gift of a financially stress free holiday!

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