BBB offers advice on keeping holiday budgets on track
by Staff Report
Nov 27, 2011 | 2460 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Whether gearing up to hit the malls, sticking close to home, or shopping online on Cyber Monday, there is still one thing to do first -- make a holiday budget.

The average American overspends for the holidays, and then faces a bleak January as credit card bills pile up. Don't let that happen this year! Better Business Bureau and Clearpoint Credit Counseling have teamed up to offer financial tips and an online Holiday Planner Calculator to help make sure your holidays are merry and bright.

Check out these holiday tips on creating a budget and sticking to it, safe shopping online, giving and using gift cards, and more.

Use the Holiday Planner Calculator to determine an overall budget, decide how much to designate for each category -- gifts, parties, travel, food and donations -- then get into details like how much to spend on each person, budgeting for parties and travel, and more. Creating a budget and sticking to it can be a challenge, but being more conscious of your holiday spending habits will help you start the new year without a lot of new debt.

Some other ideas for sticking to a budget:

* Cut down on gift-giving: For work gatherings, have everyone draw a name and give one gift. Set limits with family members and then get creative about finding something in your new, lower price range. Consider giving only to children. For the person who has everything, consider making a charitable donation in his or her name.

* Do it yourself: Homemade crafts and decorations can be fun to make and to give. Consider baking or canning your gifts this year. Give gift certificates for future services (babysitting, dog walking, leaf raking) or special events after the holidays (shows, ice skating).

* Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Use less of everything, because little things add up. Is it necessary to gift wrap that huge box? How about putting a "clue" under the tree instead and have the recipient find the present hidden someplace else in the house. Reuse gift bags - they are sturdy enough to be used five or six times. Make your own gift tags and decorations. Spray paint old candle holders gold or silver instead of buying new ones.

* Trim energy costs: Switch to LED lights and you'll not only burn less energy, you'll need fewer strands because the lights are brighter. Turn off your outside decorations when you go to bed. Turn down the thermostat when no one is home. Combine shopping trips and errands, and carpool to family gatherings.