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Planning, budgeting can ease holiday shopping woes

Posted October 30, 2009

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— Financial experts say that in tough economic times, it's essential to plan early for holiday shopping.

Katie Fine presents a great example of how to wrap up Christmas shopping.

"I actually start shopping back in June. I go and do my Christmas shopping beforehand, and I like to be done with Christmas by early November," she said.

Although it's too late to follow Fine's exact strategy, financial planners said now is the time to make a list and make sure you stick to it.

Planning, budgeting can ease holiday shopping woes Plan early for holiday shopping

"It requires being honest with yourself and with your family about what you can really afford," certified financial planner Joe Miller said.

Pay cash for your gifts. Putting presents on plastic can easily derail your budget.

"People don't tend to pay it off in 2 to 3 months. (Instead, it) tends to run 3, 6, 12 months, and they're paying 15, 20, 30 percent interest on it," Miller said. "And what seems like a good deal initially is no longer a good deal."

Elise Pertz said she can't resist buying gifts for her grandchildren, but she's trimmed her shopping list for other people.

"Friends and I don't exchange gifts anymore," Pertz said. "We've tried to cut back, and I think every everybody's been affected somewhat by the economy. So we just enjoy each other's company."

To cut spending among friends and family, you could also suggest doing group gifts or a Secret Santa gift exchange.

Shop early for deals, especially on the hottest toys of the season.

"I absolutely comparison shop, and the Internet really helps you do that," Pertz said.

And looking forward to next year's shopping, start a Christmas fund in January. Many banks and credit unions offer special accounts to stash away money each month and earn some interest.

Fine said she's learned that there's no joy in holiday debt.

"You want to be able to enjoy the holidays," she said.

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