BOSTON (CBS) – I have been talking about the need for planning your holiday purchases for over 15 years now.

But it always surprises me when I first see the Christmas displays in the stores because honestly I think they come out earlier each year. The merchants are trying to get a start on the season.

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The Christmas candy was in the next isle over from the Halloween candy. I don’t buy my Halloween candy until the afternoon of Halloween. Then I have a chance of it actually getting into the fancy pumpkin bowl for the Trick or Treaters.

Christmas Cards were ready to purchase in October for those very organized folks who get them all written and ready to mail in November. Just for the record last year I sent New Year’s cards because I was so late in getting my Christmas letter done I renamed it my New Year’s letter.

I personally like to begin to think about Christmas after Thanksgiving. Not before. But we can’t hide from it. The holidays are coming.

Most of us have what I named HPS, Holiday Perfectionist Syndrome. We 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! And the perfect holiday comes with a big price tag.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, consumers say they will spend $589 on gifts for others and $207 for items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards this year.

They also found that 41% of consumers want to do their shopping in November. And almost 40% of you have already shopped.

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Hopefully you set up a Christmas Club last January and you have the dollars you need to start shopping. The average consumer who uses a credit card is still paying off Christmas in July! And some consumers are still paying off last year’s Christmas gifts.

One more thing:  What can you afford without going into debt this year? Create a budget. Make a list of the holiday expenses and include all of your costs here.

Cards, stamps, invitations, parties, special foods, drinks, decorations, new outfits for the kids, the tree, babysitting, house gifts, hair salon, new clothes for the grownups and, of course, the presents you plan to buy for everyone!

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?

And when we are out Christmas shopping we also treat ourselves. To the tune of an additional $18 billion on non-gift purchases. We see something we would like or the sales are too good to pass up. On average, we spend over $100 on ourselves while out Christmas shopping.


You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

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