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Four Weeks to a Better Holiday Budget

You can see it just ahead, looming on the horizon -- the holiday season. While children can hardly stand the wait, adults often wish they had a few more months before its arrival. Unfortunately, time does not stop. This year, don't wait for the holiday season to put the squeeze on your wallet. Take the time now to plan and budget.

Week one:

Before you spend a cent, start a savings plan. Estimate the total amount you can realistically afford to spend this holiday season. Divide that amount by the number of weeks between now and mid-December. Create a special holiday savings fund and start setting aside your weekly goal. Open a special account for your savings or merely designate an empty coffee can. The important thing is to start saving now.

Week two:

Divide all your holiday expenses by category and do not leave anything out -- gifts, decorations, wrapping paper and ribbons, entertaining, greeting cards, postage, and charities. Figure out how much you would like to spend on each and write down these goals. Make sure the total does not exceed the limit you set in week one.

Weeks three and four:

Start shopping. Last-minute gift buying often results in spending more than you planned, so do not put it off. Make a list of what you would like to buy for each person and shop around for the best price. The more time you put into your list, the less time you will spend wandering the malls -- and the less you will spend on unnecessary or unwanted items. Most important, if you must use credit cards, do not charge more than you can afford to pay off in three months.

By using the time ahead of you to plan and budget, you can reduce the financial headaches that often accompany the holiday season. You may even find yourself looking forward to the holidays as eagerly as the children do.


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