BOSTON (CBS) – Take the time this week to sit down with pen and paper and make out a list of who you are planning on buying presents for. Then go over that list! Then go over it again. Who can you cut out?

Do you and your neighbors need to exchange gifts? What about your daughter-in-law’s parents? This tradition started innocently, one year they were here for Christmas and you wanted them to have something to open Christmas morning.

Every year since then you send them something from one of the food catalogs. You have been doing this for 20 years! Do you even know if they like smoked cheese?

Pare down the list! Talk to your family, friends and co-workers for they may feel as overwhelmed as you do.

With your list in hand write down what you want to purchase for each person and put a dollar amount next to the name. Browse the Internet; check out catalogs and the newspaper ads so you have an idea what items should cost. Then start shopping.

When you are out and caught up in the spirit of the holidays, it is so easy to overspend. And it is easy to overspend using the Internet as well. They make it easy!

When you head out to the mall try leaving your credit cards at home and just taking cash with you. Once the cash is gone, you are done shopping! If you have the discipline to do it, you will definitely stay within your budget.

Another hint to stay within the budget is if you are using your checkbook or a credit card, keep track, a running total, of what you are spending as you shop. Put the amount next to the person’s name. Again once you reach your limits you’re done!

Beware of CSS, the Christmas Shopping Syndrome, that’s where you head out again because you don’t think you have bought enough and you come home with more stuff!

A few more words of advice about shopping: Put on comfortable shoes and go shopping by yourself. Do not take the kids, your mother, your friends or your sister. That may include your spouse also. They will talk you into too many things. You will be much more efficient alone and there will be no distractions!

And it is a sad state of affairs when we need to advise you to be careful in the parking lots and at the ATMs. We want you to be safe shopping.


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