How not to go broke while doing holiday shopping

The holiday season means entertaining guests, decorating and, of course, gift buying. Stores definitely play their part offering deals and discounts to attract everyone to their stores, all to get you to spend more money than you intend to.

Just in time, here are a few tips so you can save more money than you spend this holiday season:

Leave the plastic at home

Resist the urge to use your credit card for purchases. It is more difficult to keep track of what you spend, and that line of credit will only intensify your urge to buy. The worst part: the interest you will be paying on that purchase long after that present is unwrapped, used, and pushed to the back of the closet. (Photo/Fotolia, @alice_photo)

Budget

Many online websites offer tools such as spending worksheets and a calculator to estimate what you can afford to spend based on your income. Once you have determined that number, stick to it. Create a list of each person you need a gift for and include an amount to spend for them. Stick to it and mark through each person as you finish shopping for them. (Photo/Fotolia, @Jirapong)

Shop around

Sales will be everywhere, so shopping around for the best deal on an item makes sense and can save a lot of money. Compare prices online, and don’t forget to shop the clearance and discount racks. (Photo/Fotolia, @diego cervo)

Use coupons and discounts

Major retailers offer sales books with coupons, special shopping hours, days with extra discounts and more. Often, company websites offer coupons and higher sales discounts for shopping online. Target these websites and stores for most of your shopping needs. (Photo/Fotolia, @mangpor2004)

Travel Smart

Travel to Grandma’s house during the holidays can be a major budget buster. Try to plan as far in advance as possible for travel needs during the holidays. Shop travel websites like hotels.com or hotwire.com, and be as flexible as possible on travel days and times. These sites can save hundreds on your total travel package. (Photo/Fotolia, @Monkey Business)

Decide before you leave the house what you will buy

Do not go shopping without a gift plan. This will definitely lead to overspending. Know what you will buy for each person on your list. Don’t be distracted by sales, upgraded electronics, or add-ons. Don’t let kids drag you to different aisles and stores. If necessary, shop alone. (Photo/Fotolia, @carballo)

Find free Christmas activities

During the holiday season, there are numerous ballets, plays, and concerts to attend, and they all cost. If you pay attention, you can find a lot of free Christmas activities to participate in, from school plays to Christmas tree lightings to eggnog shares to music concerts and, of course, the free Santa at the mall. (Photo/Fotolia, @Evlira)

Try discount stores

Stores like Family Dollar and Dollar General have all of the same wrapping paper, tape, and bows that the department stores do, but at much cheaper prices. You can even try your first round of gift shopping there, too. If you are looking for toys for kids, baby clothes, board games etc., a dollar store can be a great place for these items, since they are non-specific. Save the department store and those prices for specific and unique gifts. (Photo/Fotolia, @poppystyle)

Try layaway

Instead of running around and spending a large sum of money on gifts over a two week period, why not use layaway and spread the payments out over time? Layaway for the holidays usually starts at the end of September, and that way you will have a few months to pay off the balance. If you missed it this year, keep it in mind for next year! (Photo/Fotolia, @enterlinedesign)

Holiday Tipping

Holiday tipping can stress you and wipe you out if you let it. A few quick notes: set a limit; only tip those that you work with frequently like your hairdresser, dog walker, regular nail person and the butcher; don’t be afraid to tip a homemade gift; let the cost of one visit or service be your guide. (Photo/Fotolia, @Tomasz Zajda)

Jennifer Streaks is a financial journalist and author. Learn more at her website www.JenniferStreaks.com and follow her on Twitter @JStreaks.

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