Managing your finances responsibly during the holidays!

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The holiday season can be full of fun and festivities, but it can also be a stressful time when you’re trying to keep track of and manage your finances. Purchases for parties, decorations, holiday dinners, and, of course, gifts, can quickly add up to much more than you thought you’d be spending. But with a little advance planning and budgeting, you can better manage your finances during the holiday season and avoid the after-holiday debt that many accrue.
1. Make a list
Santa makes a list, and so should you. A few lists, in fact. The first list should be comprised of all your normal monthly expenses, such as utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, food, etc. Total it and subtract that amount from your expected monthly income, and you know what you have left to work with.
Next, make a list of everyone you plan to purchase gifts for, and, using your budget information, assign a dollar amount to each person that you can spend on a gift. Be sure not to use up your whole budget, leaving room for unexpected expenses.
The last list you make should include any other expenses you can think of, such as extra food for parties, holiday cards and postage, travel expenses, holiday decorations, etc. Assign expected costs to each item. If you see yourself going over budget, you will need to adjust things accordingly.
2. Research and shop early
Because so many retailers are striving to compete with one another, Black Friday deals are no longer the only time you can get a good price on items. Research sales and prices ahead of time, and try to get gifts early. Doing so helps you avoid spending more than you wanted to at the last minute because you are still frantically searching for a gift.
Tip: Compare multiple retailers online and look for free shipping deals. Many stores also offer additional promotional codes for further discounts.
3. Avoid using credit cards if possible
Studies have shown that using a credit card results in increased spending over budget of 15-20%. If you must use a credit card, use it sparingly, and only spend what you can pay off in full the following month. Some stores will give you a discount on items if you use their store card. This can be a good way to save money at first, but the interest you will accrue if you don’t pay the balance in full will eliminate any savings.
By following the above tips, you can successfully manage your money this holiday season and maybe have a little something left over to treat yourself to something nice! 

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