Keep the holiday shopping season merry with these budgeting tips

Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw load more than 1,300 Christmas trees onto the ship in preparation for its journey to Chicago in 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Robert Butler.

Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw load more than 1,300 Christmas trees onto the ship in preparation for its journey to Chicago in 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Robert Butler.

Written by Alyson Lilley.

When you see Christmas décor take over every store, you know the holiday season is near. Hanging up colorful lights and dusting off mini North Pole villages can be fun; nevertheless, when you start pulling money from your pocket to cover holiday expenses, the holiday cheer can fade away. But it doesn’t have to! We’re still a few months out, so you have plenty of time to plan, save and feel more confident you can bestow a plethora of gifts and pay your bills without breaking the bank.

Your first order of business is creating a spending plan. Think back to the previous holiday season and how much you spent overall. Will you spend that much this year? Perhaps you will spend more because a family member got married or had a child, which means adding another gift to the list. Or maybe you had a family member move into the area so you won’t have to pay for a flight. Whatever your circumstances may be, you can make a plan to keep your spending in check. Estimate and set an amount you think you will spend or you wish to spend, then start saving a little bit each month to meet those expenses.

Still looking for ways to cut back costs? Here are a few tips for smart holiday shopping:

1. Set a specific price limit for each gift based on how much you have in your budget. If there are family members who have more money than others, suggest everyone uses (and agrees on) a per-gift price limit so nobody feels pressure to spend more than they can afford.

2. Instead of everyone buying a gift for each person, have your family pick names out of a hat so each person is only responsible for getting and receiving one gift. (Plus, it’s fun to guess who picked your name!)

3. Make a list of the people you have to get gifts for and record what, when and where a purchase is made so you see how each gift is fitting into your budget (and you won’t buy more than you need). Also, if you use a credit card, make sure you check your statements for incorrect charges.

Holiday spending does not have to be overwhelming. Keep the season bright with a financial plan and a little help from your My Secure Advantage™ Money Coach. They can provide more details on how to make a spending plan and meet holiday expenses. Call your Money Coach today at 1-855-247-8778 or visit the CGSUPRT website. Services are free and confidential, within the limits of the law.

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