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Start planning your holiday season now: Budgeting

1. Set Limits for Total Holiday Spending

When it comes to the holiday season we tend to go way off budget purely because we want to give and give more. This however can reek havoc on your household finances and cause more problems in the up coming year. Giving yourself a budget by limiting what you buy to what can safely come out of your bank account is a great foundation to start your budget.

2. Make Your Own "Naughty" or "Nice" Lists

Making simple adjustments to how you buy presents for can dramatically help your budget. Make a list of who you "have to buy for" and a list of those you "would like to gift" to. Really take sometime to evaluate this list and set a budget for each. For those you just would like to give to consider making home made goodies or and inexpensive handmade gift. This way you are still giving but the giving isn't killing your finances. 

3. Budget Based on Your Own Finances

Everyone is in different financial situations and you have to take this into consideration. For example, many on your gift list may have more or less kids, just starting a new career or have an established well paying job, so your finances don't equal theirs and neither should your gift giving. 

4. Become a Coupon and Coupon Code Collector and shop early!

Sales aren't the only way to get great deals on the gifts you want for your friends or family. Before you shop online, perform a quick web search for coupon codes for your favorite online stores. Before you shop in local stores, comb through the coupons you received in your mailbox before hitting the mall. While you search through the flyers, make sure to comparison shop for the item you're interested in. Savings of $10 to $100 can happen just by keeping your eyes peeled for deals, just make sure you know the couponing dos and dont's.

Don't start shopping for gifts at the end of November, start mid-year or better yet, all year long. If you spread out the purchases then the financial burden is not squeezed into one month. You can also start a holiday fund and put a specific amount aside each week or month. This way when you do find that hard-to-pass-up deal, the funds are available. 

5. Give Your Time

Giving of your time is a great way to show others you care! However, this takes planning and preparation so start laying out what you want to do now so that when the time comes you aren't frazzled and behind. 

6. Give Personalized Gifts Instead of Expensive Gifts

A small, thoughtful gift is worth more than an expensive gift that someone may never use. Avoid impulses to shop at trendy department stores and start the holiday by taking a moment to think about what those on your list could really use. For example, if your sister loves to bake but can't get the hang of homemade pie crusts, you could buy her a simple pastry-making tool for less than $10 and include a copy of a fool-proof recipe.

7. Organize Group Volunteering Instead of Holiday Parties

Your friends probably struggle with overspending as much as you do over the holidays. Give them the relief of forgoing buying gifts for you by organizing a group volunteer day instead. You'll get to spend quality time together - plus, you'll come out of the day feeling proud of your efforts rather than suffering from buyer's remorse, and anyone can benefit from volunteering. Remember to take along a digital camera, and as you email pictures to each other, you can enjoy the day's memories again for free.