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Plan for the holidays to reduce financial stress

Holiday time can be a stressful time. This year, follow your own path to better planning for less stress and more enjoyment of the season.

Every year around this time, people begin thinking of the holidays ahead. Their thoughts turn to planning for family get-togethers, special meals and gift giving ideas. For many, these plans also bring stress as they try to figure out how to pay for all of these extras. With a small amount of planning ahead, stress can be reduced and you can still take part in special activities that celebrate those most dear.

Before you begin spending money, make a plan. Sit down and list all the things you need to have for the holidays. Include things like food, cards, stamps and decorations. Assign a realistic approximate cost to each item. Then write up a gift-giving budget. Assign a pre-determined amount to each person on your list. Total your lists and ask yourself if the amount before you is within your budget. If it is, terrific! Go forth with your shopping and stick to your lists. If not, you are in good company; according to a 2012 study conducted by Research Now for Oxygen Media, 47 percent of adults spend more than they can afford. Consider some money-saving alternatives this year:

  • Save old Christmas cards and recycle them by cutting them apart to create homemade cards for friends and loved ones. These cards also make beautiful gift tags.
  • Before shopping for holiday meals, make a menu and compare sales flyers. Plan your menu using items already in your pantry. Fancy, expensive meats and side dishes are not a requirement for a special holiday meal.
  • Ask your guests to contribute their favorite dish to the meal. Potlucks ensure that food costs do not fall completely to one person and add variety to your table. The internet has many sites like About.com and Real Simple that offer organization tips to help with your planning.
  • Consider homemade gifts this year. Can you cross stich or sew a potholder? Make a fleece pillow or blanket; give baked goods, jams or jellies.
  • Another wonderful gift is a handmade certificate good for a gift of your time or assistance with a project.
  • For those gifts you must purchase, try to pay cash. Overuse of credit cards creates post-holiday debt that can set you back financially for months afterwards.

This year give yourself the gift of planning ahead and make the holiday season brighter because of your efforts.

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