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Plan now to avoid holiday overspending

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Do you often overspend your budget when it comes to holiday gift giving? If so, you are not alone. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by InCharge Institute of America, holiday gift buying is the number one category in which Americans overspend each year.

Plan ahead

Planning is the key to avoiding holiday overspending. Deal with the problem before it even starts by developing a plan of action now to keep the cost of the holidays under control. Here are some of strategies to help you avoid the after- Christmas I-spent-too-much blues in January:

1. Set a budget

Before you start your holiday shopping, decide what you can comfortably afford to spend this year on gifts. Then mentally divvy that amount up among the names on your gift list. That will give you an approximate price limit when buying for each person.

2. Trim down your gift list

If the amount you can afford looks a lot smaller than your gift list, look for ways to scale back. Consider sending only Christmas cards or handwritten letters of appreciation to those outside your immediate family and circle of friends.

3. Practice low-cost and no-cost gift giving

Look for ways to give meaningfully instead of materially. Rather than exchanging gifts with extended family members and friends, plan a special evening together with each individual or family during the holiday season. Another option is to give gifts of time or service such as free babysitting, housecleaning, cooking, etc., to those on your gift list.

4. Cut back in other areas

Maybe scrimping on gift giving is something you feel you can't do. For some people, Christmas is just not Christmas if they don't have something under the tree for everyone on their list. If that is true for you, scale back on other holiday expenses -- decorations, greeting cards, Christmas trees, holiday parties -- to free up money to add to your gift budget.

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