Tips to prepare a holiday budget

(StatePoint)Don’t let holiday season expenses catch you off-guard -- from traveling to see family to throwing your massive annual party to simply completing your holiday shopping.

Even though retailers cut prices last year, according to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales increased 3 percent from the previous year.

Early planning and smart strategies can help you end the year on a positive financial note.

Plan Ahead
In the run up to the holidays, put some extra money aside from each paycheck and earmark it for holiday spending. A bit of padding in your purse won’t hurt and can only serve to make you feel more secure all season. Making this happen may require pinching a few pennies on daily expenses -- whether it’s bringing lunch from home rather than eating out or skipping the designer latte for a cup of coffee at work.

Create a Budget
A comprehensive budget that accounts for all your holiday expenditures will help you determine whether your holiday needs and wants are realistic. Do some research to find out exactly how much particular items will cost so you can draw up a plan that includes specifics.

To keep your accounts in order, take a cue from small businesses. Traditional budgeting tools like a desktop calculator can help. Enhanced features like an extra-large display and color printing can help you sort additions and deductions quickly.

Comparison Shop
These days, it’s easier than ever to stretch your budget. Online comparison shopping tools can help you find the best deals on all your holiday gifts. If a tough deal is hard to score on a particular item, be willing to make adjustments to your shopping list in order to stick to your budget.

Remember, you don’t need to clip coupons the old-fashioned way to get deep discounts on wanted items. Many retailers offer apps that send promotions and coupons regularly to their users.

Rethink Gifts
The thoughtfulness of a gift does not need to correspond to its cost. There are plenty of ways to show you care this holiday season that won’t break the bank. Consider your talents and skills. For example, a homemade knitted sweater, a meticulously crafted scrapbook or even an original song can have more meaning for your recipient than a pricey present.

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