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How to maintain a gift-giving budget during the holidays

Although fall has just arrived, the holiday season is right around the corner. Before you know it, those pumpkins will turn into pine cones, the temperature will drop and you'll be preparing for the winter celebrations of your choice.

In addition to being a joy-filled time of year, the holidays can be quite stressful, especially when it comes to managing your finances. Gifts, parties, donations and other seasonal obligations can quickly chip away at your earnings and savings, sending you into the new year without much fiscal stability.

If you've broken your budget in the past, now's the perfect time to start thinking about what you can do to have a happy, successful and wallet-friendly holiday season.

Determine how much you can actually spend
When you keep a specific budget in mind, you'll pay more attention to what you can afford and reduce your risk of overspending. Bankrate recommended first determining what your "disposable income" will be for this time of year. This number should be your earnings with bills, rent, groceries and other necessary costs taken out. Whatever that amount is, do your best to stick to it as you plan events, buy gifts and decorate your home. The source noted that although it's tempting to put more items on your credit card during the holidays, accruing extra debt is never wise. Keeping expenses within the confines of cash will be better in the long run.

Put traditions before gifts
A simple trick for being frugal is to prioritize traditions and spend less on material items. Not only will this leave your bank account full, it will also fill you with wonderful memories for years to come. Don't have any well-worn traditions to look forward to, or don't think you'll be able to afford your typical routine this year? Don't stress - it's never too late to start new holiday rituals. Brainstorm a few low-cost ideas with your family friends.

Establish budgets for everyone on your list
Just because your co-worker has sophisticated taste in wine doesn't mean you have to gift him a $50 bottle. With the spirit of generosity flooding the air during this time of year, it's easy to get carried away with gift giving by putting too many people on your list or spending too much money per person. Prevent one - or both - these things from happening by creating a shopping list, and sticking to it. Write down immediate family members and close friends you want to buy for, and then assign a price limit for each person's present. For co-workers, acquaintances and distant friends, consider giving cards or baked goods in place of store-bought goods, suggested CreditCards.com.

If it still seems like you're buying for more people than Santa, try getting friends and family on board with a different type of giving this year. Gift swaps, Secret Santa exchanges or going out to dinner in place of buying gifts are all great options that also help you save money.

Take advantage of Black Friday
If you typically avoid stores at all cost the day after Thanksgiving, you aren't alone. Plenty of people fear the crowds and craziness that have become synonymous with Black Friday sales. Still, U.S. News & World Report explained, it can be a valuable shopping day if you're on a budget - as long as you go in with a strategy.

The source recommended using Black Friday to snatch big-ticket items, like televisions, computers, tablets and other electronics, as these tend to be discounted significantly exclusively on this day. For less expensive products, like clothes and toys, Black Friday isn't always the best time to save. Check the sales at each store before establishing your game plan so you know exactly what you're looking for and what it's going to cost you.

Go online
Many frugal people swear by online shopping, especially during the holidays when there's not a lot of wiggle room in the budget. Sites like Amazon and eBay are great for purchasing new and gently used items at incredible discounts, and you can access most brands' sale sections on their e-commerce pages as well. One of the best parts of online shopping is the ability to compare prices quickly and easily before committing to a transaction. Search around to make sure you're paying as little as possible.


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