You may have been a last-minute holiday shopper last year, but planning now can help you have a happier, stress-free holiday season this year. Here are some simple holiday budget tips to get you started:

Make a list, and check it twice. Experts agree that it helps to write down a list of all the people for whom you plan to shop, before you hit the stores or turn on the computer. Next to each name write down what you want to buy for that person, and how much you want to spend. You get a clear idea of the numbers involved and know in advance how many gifts you need to purchase.

Shop for bargains. Once you have an idea of what you are looking for, and for whom you are buying, shop around for the best deal. In addition, if you are purchasing a number of items from the same online retailer, buying all the items together can cut down on shipping costs.

Curb impulse shopping and spending. Buy only what is on your list. If you’ve forgotten someone, add them to your holiday budget and, if necessary, adjust the amounts you spend on others so you keep the same total.

Make a plan for those other expenses. Give some thought as to how much you will be spending during the holiday season on things other than gifts. Be sure to include the following in your holiday budget: postage for cards and presents that need to be shipped; wrapping paper, bows, greeting cards and other supplies; decorations; food and drink for holiday meals (and do not forget to add more, if you will be feeding guests); and travel expenses.

Review your receipts and bills from last year. This will give you an idea of the amount you actually spent and how long it took to pay for it all.

Save your holiday receipts from this year. Expenses add up fast during this busy season. Either total them daily or add them up two weeks before the actual holiday. Seeing your totals will provide you with a reality check as to how much more you can afford to spend.

Using credit during the holidays? If so, take only the credit cards you will need and limit those to as few as possible. Be sure to check your credit card statements carefully for any unauthorized charges. Report unauthorized charges immediately to your financial institution or credit card company.

If you follow some of these simple holiday budget tips, you should have a successful and financial stress-free holiday season! Be sure to subscribe to our e-mail newsletter so that you can receive tips like these directly in your inbox.

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