BOSTON (CBS) – Yesterday I talked about the 40% of folks already finished with their holiday shopping. So this is for the other 60% still in a planning stage.

How much do you plan to spend on gifts this year? The Retail Federation’s survey talked about a budget of $936. How much can you afford to spend on gifts this year without going into serious debt?

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Once you figure that out the rest should be fun. Create a list of who you are planning on shopping for. Then go over that list! Is there anyone you can eliminate?

Talk to the neighbors about doing a cookie swap instead exchanging gifts. What about the extended family? Your daughter-in-law’s sister’s boyfriend who will be there this year for Christmas dinner. Do you really need to buy him something?

And those relatives in Chicago. The second cousins who you played with every summer on the lake when you were little. A nice letter telling them you are making a donation to the local food pantry in their name would be a good transition.

With your list in hand put a dollar amount next to the name and then what you want to purchase for each person. Research the cost of each item. 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 so easy! And free shipping suckers us in!

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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 this, you will definitely stay within your budget.

If you are using your credit cards or checkbook, keep 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!

One more thing:   And beware of CSS, Christmas Shopping Syndrome, that’s where you head out again because you don’t think you have bought enough for the kids 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! I do often take my husband because shopping with him is sort of like hunting with the game warden.


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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