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Avoid Holiday Overspending
The period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s is one of the most joyful of the year. It also can be the most expensive, and the most stressful. But there are some things you can do to preserve your budget -- and your sanity.
Experts agree that planning is key. Start by deciding how much you are comfortable spending. Consider everything – gifts, decorations, entertaining, travel, cards, gift wrap, etc. Make a list of all the gifts you plan to give, and include a budget for each. While you are at it, make a general schedule, so that you have time to do everything you want to do without stressing yourself out.
Time your shopping. Shopping early for gifts, decorations, etc., allows you to spread your spending over a longer time and helps you avoid a huge credit card bill in the new year. It also helps you avoid the mad rush to get everything wrapped and ready at the end. On the other hand, deep discounts often are available close to the holidays.
Be realistic about gifts. Don’t spend more than you can afford, and don’t make plans you might not have time to execute. For example, giving handmade gifts can save you money, but it probably is too late to knit sweaters for everyone on your list.
If you are hosting a holiday meal, consider a potluck approach in which you provide the main course and let guests bring side dishes, appetizers and desserts. If you know you will be a guest at several gatherings, pick up some hostess gifts ahead of time, so you don’t have to shop for them once the pace of the season picks up.
Instead of sending physical cards, consider emailing a newsy holiday letter to all or some of your friends and family. You will save the cost of the cards as well as the stamps to mail them. If you have relatives or friends who don’t regularly use email, buy a few cards for them.
If travel is part of your holiday plan, check travel sites for the best deals. Remember, though, that not all airlines are represented on the most popular travel sites. If you can be flexible with your dates, you may be able to find some excellent fares. And, for the sake of your sanity as well as your wallet, avoid flying on the heaviest travel days, such as right before and after Thanksgiving.
Finally, take care of yourself. Eat well, don’t overindulge in alcohol, make sure you get enough sleep, stick to your exercise routine. Make time for a little pampering, if you can. And remember that spending time with people is the best gift of all.