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Planning ahead can keep holiday shopping temptations in check

Gifts. Decor. Greeting cards. And more. The average holiday shopper is expected to spend $737.95 during the holiday season this year, according to the National Retail Federation's holiday consumer spending survey. And, with the pressure from frie...

Holiday spending

Gifts. Decor. Greeting cards. And more.

The average holiday shopper is expected to spend $737.95 during the holiday season this year, according to the National Retail Federation's holiday consumer spending survey.

And, with the pressure from friends and family members to get the biggest, most expensive gifts, and the lures from retailers to spend more money, Accenture's Holiday Shopping Survey estimates that 43 percent of people will overspend during the holiday season.

But, Richard Bechhold, a financial counselor at The Village Family Service Center in Grand Forks, said it's important to create a plan of action and stick to it as closely as possible.

Think about your monthly income, as well as any monthly bills and expenses that might be due around the holidays, Bechhold said. Considering both of those factors will help you set your holiday spending amount.

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From there, one can start developing a plan of action.

"(Know) how much you want to spend and (put) that aside for gifts," Bechhold said. "Think about what you have to buy, or for who, you have to buy; how (it's) going to affect your budget; and the cost of the items."

Divide the total amount of money by the number of gifts to be purchased. For example, if one's total holiday budget is $200, and he needs to buy gifts for 10 people, each individual gift amount should be about $20.

Bechhold said the individual gift amount can fluctuate a bit, but the overall amount should not exceed your budget.

"If you're shopping for somebody and you find something that's $25, don't think you can't get that because you might find something for someone else that's on sale for $15," Bechhold said.

Another thing to consider when making a plan of action is any unplanned expenses that came up last year.

Bechhold said this might include babysitters, office parties, gifts for children's friends or parties they might have.

For those hosting parties or traveling, it's important to include those additional expenses in the plan as well.

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By looking at advertisements, determining what stores have the best deals and making a list beforehand, shoppers who plan ahead can save a substantial amount of money.

Stick to the plan

But, creating a plan is useless if one doesn't stick to it.

Bechhold said those who are frugal can complete their shopping throughout the month, searching for the best deals. On the other hand, those who aren't as frugal should consider doing all of their shopping in one sitting.

"If you're one that's not as frugal, doing it all at once might be better," he said. "Because then you know you have your budget, and you know what you have to stick to."

He said it all comes down to keeping track of receipts and the amount spent.

Bechhold also suggested using cash, rather than credit cards or debit cards.

"If you're using cash, you're more aware of how much you have available," he said.

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Those who do decide to use credit cards shouldn't spend more than they can afford.

Bechhold said credit card bills should be paid off in a month or two to avoid interest payments.

Bechhold's last piece of advice: "Enjoy yourself but don't go overboard."

Quick tips for holiday shopping

• Create a plan of action.

• Don't sign up for store credit cards just to get the 10 percent discount.

• Don't buy gifts just to have something under the tree.

• Shop alone to stay on track and avoid competition.

• Use cash rather than credit cards and debit cards.

• If using credit cards, pay them off within one or two months.

Maki covers arts and entertainment and life and style. Call her at (701) 780-1122, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1122 or send email to jmaki@gfherald.com .

Christmas spending

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This piece was written for Prairie Business, which covers business in the Dakotas and Minnesota. To receive a free digital edition each month, see the instructions at the bottom of this story.