It's not too late to start now!

Sure-Fire Ways to Stick to Your Holiday Budget

by Shaunna Privratsky

Oh no! It's already November and you haven't even thought about the holiday budget. You are not looking forward to the crowded supermarket and the endless wait in the one open check-out lane. Most of all, you dread draining your bank account, and the piles of credit card bills coming due. This year, take the reins of out-of-control spending and make this a holiday to remember for all the right reasons. Here are some secrets to making and sticking to your holiday budget.

First, make a list of all the extra expenses the holidays bring. Include everything, not just presents. There is shipping for faraway relatives, extra food, decorations, and maybe travel expenses. Now add up your income. If you see you will be a little short, you can trim your list a bit or cut back on some things. Another option is to take a temporary part-time job.

Now that you have a budget in place, the hard part begins. Stick to your plan by eliminating temptation. If you know you'll overspend at the mall, don't go to the mall. If online shopping is your weakness, erase all your favorite links and avoid browsing. If you get a case of envy every time you go on Facebook or Pinterest, take a time out.

Change your habits to fit your budget. If you are used to spending a certain amount on each gift, mix it up. Get creative! Make one gift for everyone on your list, like a special ornament or a pretty candle. Pictures in a nice frame please almost everyone, and cost is kept to a minimum.

Related: Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas

Eliminate traditions that no longer work for your family. If the cost of a real tree you pay to go out and chop down yourself is too outrageous, opt for a perfectly fine specimen in town or go the artificial route, which also eliminates those pesky pine needles that poke your bare feet well into July. There are fabulous fakes that can be had for a fraction of the price. Just watch for sales. Better yet, wait for the after-Christmas sales, where they practically give them away. I got our gorgeous tree at a thrift store for only $3.50!

If circumstances have put your family in debt, what better gift to give them and yourself than the gift of financial freedom? Get started today.

Identify triggers that cause you to throw the budget out the window and whip out your credit card. Is it shopping late at night when you are so tired you just throw things in the cart? Or those shiny ads that come in the Sunday paper? Maybe a cute commercial makes you rush online for the latest outrageously priced gadget. Once you identify your triggers, you can ignore them or at least make informed decisions.

Stick to your holiday budget by saving every dollar that you can! Receive cash back on your purchases when you use one or more of these 14 favorite cash back shopping sites.

Track your progress to stay on budget. If you overspend one day, don't throw in the towel and go on a spending spree. Instead, see if you can save on something else to make up for it. Make your decorations instead of buying new ones or only bake the cookies you know your family loves instead of enough baked goods to feed half the town.

Look for free activities to involve your family in the season. The Sunday paper usually lists the week's activities, and you can check with your church or school for even more.

See Also: 15 Ways Your Family Can Save Money This Holiday Season

Make it easy to stick to your holiday budget. Save a little money for each category on your list. If you run out, get creative. Remind yourself that you are giving gifts of love, which is not equal to how much you spend.

Once you've mastered the tricks to sticking to a holiday budget, make it a part of your life. A budget is a roadmap to how much you can spend and still live comfortably. After all, this is your life. Money, or lack thereof, doesn't define us. Getting a handle on finances (for the holidays and beyond) will set you on the path to a better future.

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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