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5 Painless Ways To Save Money This Holiday Season

A financial adviser shares his five best budgeting tips for this holiday season.

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Create A Budget

I can already hear the sighs. But before you turn the page, hear me out: A holiday budget can be quite simple. Start by picking an amount that you feel comfortable spending this season and plan from there. If you budget to spend only $500, that might mean $200 on a family dinner and $300 on gifts. And there you have it: a simple holiday budget you’ll stick to.

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Plan Your List Ahead Of Time

With your budget complete, begin planning what you want to buy before you leave the house. If that $300 budget means one $50 gift for six people, start brainstorming price-appropriate ideas. If you go to the mall or shop online without an idea that meets this $50 budget, you may be tempted to “impulse-buy” and potentially blow your budget.

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Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute

There will be deals ahead of time. My mom was famous for this: Some years, in the middle of July, she would come home and tell us she found a deal and picked up a Christmas gift already! The good news is, you don’t have to shop that far in advance for sales. Once you have a budget-friendly idea, head out early and take advantage of sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday in late November. Even if those sale days have passed, the earlier you go, the more selection you’ll have, and it will help cut down on the stress of finding a gift.

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Don’t Touch Your Credit Card

I find this one purely psychological. By using your debit card, you know that you only have a certain amount of money to spend before your account balance hits zero. With a credit card, though, you can spend “up to” your monthly limit – a limit that is often higher than what you could afford in any given month and that you don’t have to pay immediately. Using your debit card will help you stay within your budget by limiting how much you can spend.

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Track Your Spending

Most banks these days offer features on their websites that automatically track and categorize your spending. There is also a host of apps that offer similar services. These tracking apps can help you monitor your day-to-day spending and even send you alerts when you’re spending more than usual, keeping you and your budget in line.