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Don't Let The Holidays Bust Your Budget

James H. Dimmitt -- If you feared opening your January and February bills to see how much you really spent last year, now is a great time to plan for a financially healthy and happy holiday season this year.

Before you know it our days will be filled with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. And if you're not careful, the spending and entertaining that goes with celebrating these holidays could put a real strain on your budget. Amid the music and decorations it becomes very easy to just "charge" away.

If you feared opening your January and February bills to see how much you really spent last year, now is a great time to plan for a financially healthy and happy holiday season this year.

Here are 7 tips to help you get started:

1) "He's makin' a list and checkin' it twice."

Hey, if it's good enough for Santa, it's good enough for me. Make a list of the entertaining and gifts you plan to include this season. Don't forget to include holiday decorations, gift wrap, and food.

2) Make a budget!

Set realistic limits on the amount you can afford to spend on your list and then stick to it! Nothing will sidetrack you more quickly than going on a holiday spending spree -- especially one you really can't afford.

3) Celebrate within your means.

Think before you spend -- do you really want to be paying for your holidays six months after you've celebrated them? The holidays are meant to be a time of joy, not a time to go deeper in debt.

4) Get creative with your gifts.

Hand made items are more personal and often more memorable than store bought items. Offer personal services such as baby-sitting, gardening, cooking, and such. Visit a craft store such as Michael's and you'll find endless ideas for beautiful gifts you can create on a budget.

5) Give a gift that gives the whole year long.

Consider buying a gift subscription to someone's favorite magazine for them. Your generosity will be remembered every month when their new issue arrives. Search the Web for discounts on magazine subscriptions and save even more!

6) Shop early and watch for pre-holiday sales.

Use coupons found in your weekly newspaper for additional savings.

7) Start saving now.

Put aside a little money each week to pay for your holidays rather than putting everything on plastic and risk having to go into debt.

Here's hoping these tips help put a little more joy in your holidays this year!

James is editor of "To Your Credit," a free weekly newsletter with tips to help you manage your personal finances. Subscribe today and receive his ebook Identity Theft -- How To Avoid Becoming the Next Victim! and other free bonuses by visiting http://www.yourfreecreditreportnow.com.

© 2005 James Dimmitt

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