BOSTON (CBS) – Well Halloween is over and Thanksgiving will be here next week so I guess I can talk about Christmas. I was not happy to see Christmas decorations going up in October. And then the Christmas music started and I discovered Santa had already arrived at the mall.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, shoppers plan to be conservative with holiday budgets this year. They plan to spend an average of $750 on holiday stuff, up about $10 from last year. That includes the tree, decorations, cards, stamps and gifts. And that may not sound like a lot to some people but multiply that by the families in the U.S. and the grand total is $586 billion!

Many consumers start their Christmas shopping before Halloween. And some are actually done before Thanksgiving. Many families have Thanksgiving together and exchange presents then. This is the first time in my life I am done shopping.

Most of us have HPS, Holiday Perfectionist Syndrome. We all want the perfect holiday, like the ones we see on TV; a beautiful tree laden with perfect ornaments, packages arranged artfully under the tree, festive food and everyone happy! You know that Martha Stewart look!

I do believe if you plan and create a holiday budget you will be more likely to stick to it.

Create a spending plan and include all of the holiday costs here. Cards, stamps, invitations, parties, special foods, drinks, decorations, new outfits for the kids, a tree, babysitting, house gifts, hair salon, new clothes for the grownups and, of course, the presents you plan to buy for everyone!

What can you afford without going into debt this year? Did you set up a Christmas club last January? The average consumer is still paying off Christmas in July! And 11% of consumers still have not paid off last year’s Christmas gifts.

What and who can you delete from your Christmas list? Do you need to send Christmas cards to everyone you know? How about just those that live far away. Or just your grandparents and the rest get an e-mail

Make your parties potluck. Easier on you and the budget. Invitations can be sent thru Evite.

And when we are out Christmas shopping we also treat ourselves. To the tune of an additional $18 billion on non-gift purchases. Lots of reasons for that. We see something we would like or the sales are too good to pass up. On average, we spend $108 on ourselves while out Christmas shopping.


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