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How to Stick to Your Holiday Shopping Budget

Dreaming of a Merry Christmas and a debt-free New Year? Jotting down a holiday shopping budget before you hit the stores is a must. If you haven’t been saving diligently all year for holiday shopping, you can still keep your credit cards on a short reign as you work through your shopping list.

Dreaming of a Merry Christmas and a debt-free New Year? Jotting down a holiday shopping budget before you hit the stores is a must. If you haven’t been saving diligently all year for holiday shopping, you can still keep your credit cards on a short reign as you work through your shopping list. Here are the steps to sticking to your holiday shopping budget:

1. How Much Can You Afford?

Before you even think about shelling out for a sparkling new watch for your significant other, find out exactly what you have to spend. If you haven’t been saving for holiday shopping, what can you cut back on for the next month and a half? If you find you have absoltely no cash for holiday shopping and are looking at your credit cards, warning bells should be ringing. Some frugal shopping is still possible, but you may also want to check out our debt help page to avoid the situation next year.

2. Who Really Gets Presents?

It sounds Grinch-like, but being selective in your giving can safe you bundles. Outside of your immediate family, only buy gifts for children, and keep them small. And use your age to your advantage — unless you have kids of your own, older relatives shouldn’t expect you to be spoiling theirs just yet.

3. Give Lightly at Work

“Secret Santas”, “Yankee Swaps” or other gift exchanges should be the only giving you do at work. It’s easy to go over the top and coworkers may feel guilty if they didn’t reciprocate. Keep swap gifts under spending guidelines; and don’t expect to get anything of value for yourself. Consider yourself lucky if you score something you can actually use. (Exception: If you’re a boss, small gifts for employees is warming).

4. Agree to Spend Less

While you obviously want to give your most loved one something special, a romantic gesture doesn’t have to break the bank. Have a discussion ahead of the Holidays about gift expectations. Set a gift spending limit, but agree to put extra thought into each other gifts. Then, focus on something he or she really enjoys. The time you take to learn about your partner’s interests is worth more than any gem.

5. Make Your List, Check It Twice

Once you know how much you can spend, who gets presents and who doesn’t, and how to buy more meaningful presents for your loved ones, make your list! Write down what each item will cost you, and don’t exceed your budget when you hit the stores! Your goal should be to get through everything on your list with cash to spare. Then you can get somebody, or maybe even yourself, a little something extra!

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

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