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Holiday shopping doesn't have to break the bank. Make a budget and start early so that you're not pressed to make last-minute decisions. (Tribune photo/clipart.com)

Take control of holiday spending: Finance counselor says make a budget, start shopping early

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West Central Tribune
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Take control of holiday spending: Finance counselor says make a budget, start shopping early
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

By Ashley Hagelin

Senseandcentsibility.areavoices.com

It’s amazing how easy it is to go overboard during the holidays. We all tell ourselves, “I am not going to overspend, overeat or overcommit” — but sure enough, every year we find ourselves way beyond the limits we set for ourselves.

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Part of the holiday magic is the ability to justify to ourselves what we are doing while we are doing it. Still, in the end we pay the price (usually in the form of the January credit card statement).

I know that it’s the holidays, and there will be some overindulgence. But why not try and prepare the best you can?

Here are some ideas to keep the overall holiday season from busting your budget.

Make your

holiday budget

When we think about a holiday budget, we almost always think about gifts. How much can I spend on each person on my list?

Making a gift budget is really helpful when it comes to deciding how much to spend on each person in your life. However, gifts are only a part of what we spend over the holidays. Consider other expenses when making your budget.

* Food. Are you preparing a big meal? Or bringing food to a potluck?

*  Travel. Are you flying somewhere? Or driving? Can you stay with family or friends or are you hotel-bound?

*  Boarding pets. What are you going to do with Fido? Can you bring your pets with?

*  Decorations. Do you buy a real tree? Or do you have an artificial tree in storage?

*  Holiday cards and postage. How many cards do you send out every year?

*  Donations. Do you donate to any charities over the holidays? Maybe a toy drive or food drive?

*  Work expenses. Are you part of a Secret Santa or cookie exchange?

The kids will love it

Gifts for the kids can be hard to resist. If you get that little extra something for one child, you have to make sure that you balance it with another little something for the other(s), and it can easily snowball out of control.

I found the best saying on Pinterest to keep shopping for children in perspective. It goes: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” — Anonymous

What a great way to put shopping for children into manageable boundaries. This will be my motto when shopping this year.

Bonus: Studies have shown time and again that children get longer-lasting enjoyment from experiences vs. material objects. So if you haven’t already, now is a great time to start your family’s holiday traditions, because memories last a lifetime.

Start shopping early

Nothing forces you to spend more than you want than shopping at the last minute. If you are in a rush to find the perfect thing for someone, you will eventually get to the point where you will ignore the price in order to get the job done. If you give yourself enough time, you can shop around for the right gift at the right price. This will also make shopping a lot less stressful.

Making gifts isn’t just for the crafty

There are endless handmade gift ideas that range from difficult to very easy. I have found gift ideas for my children’s teachers and childcare providers that even I can do (which is proof that there is something for every skill level out there). The gifts turned out beautifully and the kids were able to help. Not only were the gifts well-received, but the kids were so proud of the gifts they made. Places to find just some of the many gift ideas are pinterest.com, realsimple.com and spoonful.com.

In addition to the benefit of making gifts, there are so many fun do-it-yourself decoration ideas. Gifts and decorations are two areas where you can save some major money this holiday season. You never know… you just might surprise yourself.

Ashley Hagelin is a financial counselor at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and specializes in reverse mortgage counseling. She contributes to the blog Sense and Centsibility at senseandcentsibility.areavoices.com.

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