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Stay on budget this holiday season

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In the last week leading up to Christmas, some people might go a little overboard with the holiday spirit and be tempted to ignore their shopping budget. It’s great to give gifts to family and friends, but it’s also important not to set yourself up for financial hardship later.

Here are some of my ideas to help you stay on track with your holiday spending:

• Don’t spend a fortune on wrapping paper. Fancy gift bags with tissue paper and colorful wrapping paper with shiny bows are nice, but they’re probably going to end up in the trash soon after your gift is opened.

To prevent your money from going to the landfills, consider using brown paper bags and decorating them with stamps such as Christmas trees, stars and snowflakes. You could also use leftover wallpaper, the comics section of the newspaper or maps.

To save money next year, buy wrapping paper on clearance during after-Christmas sales. Or, if you really want to pinch pennies, carefully unwrap your gifts this year and save the paper to wrap next year’s gifts.

• Have a Secret Santa gift exchange. If you have a large family or belong to organizations (work, church or extracurricular) that plan to exchange gifts, make the suggestion for everyone to pick one name and then buy a gift for that person only.

That way, everyone still receives a gift and doesn’t end up spending a fortune. Also, set a price limit for the gift exchange.

• Don’t be ashamed to regift. We all have different tastes, and if you’ve received a perfectly good gift in the recent past, then pass it on to someone who might appreciate it.

• Don’t forget that it’s the thought that counts. There are lots of expensive, high-tech gadgets on the market, but often the best gifts are the ones given from the heart.

Try to find something the recipient will remember after the glitz of the holiday season has ended.

Maybe you could give a framed photograph of the two of you, a CD of favorite songs, an IOU for free babysitting or lawncare or even bake a favorite dessert.

• Keep a tight rein on your overall spending. Even if you’ve set a budget on holiday gifts, it’s easy to overspend on other items during the holidays, such as entertainment and food or clothes for holiday gatherings.

Instead of buying a new outfit for a holiday party, recycle an old item and maybe pair it with a new accessory or different shoes.

Also, have a potluck rather than footing the entire food bill for holiday gatherings.

SUNDAY’S COUPONS

Sunday’s issue of The Augusta Chronicle includes an Old Navy coupon to save $15 off any purchase of $75 or more.

It expires Saturday.

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