Your guide to spending wisely for the holidays

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By Katelyn Billings

The holiday season is now upon us.   As soon as Halloween is over, the advertisements and store displays showcase all the goodies and gifts to buy for the holidays.

Of course, the natural procrastinator in each of us puts off holiday shopping until the 11th hour, and when it’s all over we tell ourselves that next year will be different.

With a few tips that I’ve compiled, this year’s holiday season will be stress-free, leaving more time for you to enjoy the hot cocoa and cookie platters at family parties.

One general rule of thumb that typically never fails is to plan ahead and shop early. As time progresses and the holidays creep up, we tend to get desperate and buy the first things we see just to get it all done with.

If you make a list of your gift recipients and put a limit on how much you are willing to spend on one person, it makes it much easier to stay organized and on top of your holiday shopping.

Drafting a budget and scoping out sales is one of the easiest methods of preventing that holiday-sized hole in your wallet come January.

If crowded shopping malls are not your thing, online stores have tons of holiday sales, especially on the dreaded Black Friday.

While people flock to the mall plazas the day after Thanksgiving, you can take advantage of the same sales from the comfort of your home and in your coziest pajamas … definitely a win-win situation.

Additionally, online shopping gives you the opportunity to compare products, prices and consumer reviews all in the same window.

When you’re ready to check out online, be sure to peruse a coupon site because some websites have codes that can give you up to 20 percent off your total purchase.

Less stress, and less of a dent in your bank account.

Something everyone is guilty of is seeing something you would love for yourself while out shopping for others.

As a kid, this was the biggest problem when I would go out holiday shopping with my family.

Suddenly, when looking for the perfect gift for your Mom, a sweater or poster is just calling your name.

This season, try to challenge yourself to keep your own name off of the gift list, and if you spot something you know you can’t live without, put it on a list and add a few stars for emphasis so your family knows exactly what to get you.

Overall, holiday spending should be kept to a minimum, and when you’re out shopping keep this in mind: spend only what is necessary and approximately how much the other person might spend on you.  This mantra isn’t being a miser, it’s realistic.

Nobody likes to get a chintzy gift when the other person spent significantly more.  For girls, I suggest elf.com and Bath and Body Works. Both of these stores offer high quality cosmetics at affordable prices, and they are almost always having great sales.

Another alternative is always something homemade, but you run the risk of looking cheap. The solution? Homemade photo albums are an alternative to a store-bought gift, and they really show how much a person means to you. You can prevent shopping stress by buying a great gift, but you can’t put a price tag on memories.

Also, who doesn’t love a batch of homemade treats? A platter of cookies, fudge or any baked dessert is sure to win over anyone on your list.

With these tips and tricks, your holidays are sure to be sweeter and less stressful on you and your wallet.

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