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How to Avoid Holiday Money Mistakes

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This can be a very expensive time of the year and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to overspend. Here are a few ways to avoid making money mistakes and hopefully how to start 2013 off on the right foot. 

It’s so easy to overspend. Especially on little kids. The clothes are so cute. The toys are so fun. Young adults have fun toys, too and fun toys for the older kids cost a little more, so if you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s important to talk to them about overspending on their friends, boyfriends and girlfriends. Parents.com partner LearnVest says that it’s important to start talking to kids about money at a young age, so they’ll be wiser about spending when they get into their teen years. They recommend giving your children an allowance and if that’s not enough to cover movies, make up and clothing, they’ll have to save. If they constantly run out of money, give them more but not without working for it first to teach them that you have to work for what you want.

If you look at your gift list and want to barf, scale back how much you spend and pare down who you buy for. FrugalDad says that if it comes down to paying the gas bill or buying a present for Cousin Frank, pay the bill. FrugalDad also says that goes for toys for your own children. If it comes down to paying the mortgage or buying expensive electronics for the kids, pay the mortgage. Set realistic expectations when you make out your list. He says that many family members don’t expect to get gifts from extended family members and “expectations should decline even further” because many are still in an economic crunch. He says “don’t feel an obligation to buy for everyone on your Christmas list.” Instead, he says to mark the season by showing you love someone in a thoughtful way that doesn’t cost a ton of money.

Don’t wait until the last minute to do all of your Christmas shopping. Waiting until the last minute is especially dangerous because it doesn’t give you any time to be thoughtful about your purchases or comparison shop. I’m speaking from experience here and yes, I did learn my lesson. The Clapper, a Chia Pet, an OveGlove, toiletries or a snuggie says: A.) I’m lazy, B) I forgot, C) I don’t care or D) I forgot because I don’t care. It’s easy to get busy and put it off, but Christmas comes every year on December 25. If you don’t like waiting in line or fighting crowds for parking spaces or discounted items and buy all of your gifts online, it’s a good idea to consider December 15 your deadline so you don’t have to pay extra for express shipping.

It’s also important to figure in the “little things” like shipping costs when making out a budget for Christmas. Sure, you know how many gifts you need to buy and how much you are able to spend, but also, remember that if you’re invited to parties, a small gift for the hostess is nice, the electric bill is going to cost a little more because you have your tree and your Christmas lights plugged in and don’t forget the decorations. One thing I like to do is take a gift card for a home improvement store and buy my Christmas lights and decorations with the gift cards. You may not have your own home, be handy around the house or be a do it yourselfer, but you’re using the card and you’re buying something you’re going to use for years to come.

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