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So here it is, December, and you haven't figured out your holiday budget yet. All too often, that's one of the leading causes for overspending during the holidays. But it's not too late. You still can do a quick and easy budget that will help you live within your means this holiday season. Where do you start? Here are some tips:
? It isn't just gift giving that sends our budgets over the top. If you're doing holiday entertaining, be sure to include those costs in your overall budget. Don't shoulder the financial burden of a big meal on your own. Many families ask those attending to bring a specific type of dish. That will keep costs under control and make it more fun for everyone.
? When it comes to gift giving, make a list of everyone you want to buy for. The reality of seeing those names on paper gets you ready to start thinking about how much you can afford to spend on each person. Add up the total. If it's too high, re-evaluate what you might buy. In the future, suggest dollar limits on gift exchanges with extended family members or go to a system where you pull names, so you'll only be responsible for one or two gifts.
? Don't assume you have to buy a gift for everyone. Homemade food items can make great gifts. If money is especially tight, is there something you can do for them rather than purchase for them? For example, an older relative might really appreciate your window-washing or cleaning services for a day. Make up a nice "gift certificate" and put it in a box or bag.
? After deciding who you're going to buy for, and what you want to spend, think about what you might buy and browse the ads before you go. Then, take the list with you when you shop. Try to shop early in the month, or at off times, so you don't feel rushed. Ordering online also can save you from a lot of stress.
? Keep your receipts this year; put all of them in an envelope. After the holiday, add it up. This will give you an idea of how much you really spent and indicate what you need to save for the next holiday season.
Finally, after the holidays, start your saving plan early to prepare for the 2013 holiday season. You'll be glad you did!
Adam Dykman is branch manager for Citizens Bank in Stevens Point.