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The holidays can be expensive. But with some planning, you can manage your expenses.  Consider these tips to help keep your budget on track.

Make a list and commit to it. Avoid impulse buying by preparing a list before you shop for gifts or groceries.  And, keep a log of what you spend.   A list will help you stick to your holiday budget.

Set a limit. Know the amount you want to spend on each gift recipient.  Encourage your children or grandchildren to make a list of one or two gifts they would like and include a dollar maximum so they understand there are limits.

  • Shop early. Starting your shopping early can have a double benefit.  You can keep an eye on prices and buy items when you see low prices.  And, you’ll get done sooner and enjoy a less stressful holiday.
  • Or shop really late. If you aren’t picky, you can get some great last-minute deals as stores try to move inventory before the holiday season ends.
  • Take your MoneyPass® ATM Card. Shopping with cash can help you stick to a budget.  Use your debit card at a MoneyPass® ATM to withdraw cash surcharge-free at many retail locations while you shop.
  • Take Advantage of Online Discounts. If you prefer to shop online, check for retailers’ codes, coupons or rebate sites before you buy. If a site you are shopping on charges for shipping, do a quick search to see if the item you want is available on a site that offers free shipping.
  • Consider homemade. If you have a craft hobby, make family and friends a heartfelt gift.  Homemade cookies, a woodworking gift or a photo collage or album are popular.
  • Give the gift of service. Don’t overlook the value of intangibles. Offer your service — shovel a sideway, walk a dog or babysit.  The gift of time and service during the holidays is priceless.
  • Prepare your own food. Buying prepared food may save some time but it can cost significantly more. And it may be less healthy.
  • Entertain at home. Sharing the holiday season at home with family and friends is less expensive than entertaining at a restaurant and eating out. Ask guests to bring a favorite dish and have fun asking them to share how they make the dish and why it is special.
  • Use Secret Santa. If you have a large extended family that exchanges gifts, introduce Secret Santa – an arrangement with each family member anonymously assigned to another family member to give a gift.
  • Take a vacation. Resorts and cruise ships often discount travel at the holidays. But shop around.  The same room can cost less depending on how it is booked.  And don’t overlook the value of traveling in your own backyard.  Some of the best and lower-cost holiday travel destinations are located within driving distance of home.
  • Donate. Make a charitable donation to honor another person. An added bonus may be that you get a tax deduction.  If you are charitably inclined, donate your required minimum distribution from a traditional retirement account to a qualified charity tax free.  An American Federal Personal Banker can help you consider your options.

With a spending plan, you can take the financial pinch out of the season. Happy holidays from American Federal Bank.