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Is It Time to Start Planning for the Holidays?

Between the in-laws coming to town and figuring out where your 47 cousins are going to sit at the dinner table, there is enough to stress about during the holidays — money doesn’t need to be one of them.

Here are a few things you can do right now to help get you prepared early on.

1. Assess your finances, make your gift list and create a budget – Regardless of the season, you should be taking a fresh look at your finances and budget every few months, so any time is ideal to look at the big picture and see where your money is going and how your spending habits have changed. Next, list the people you plan to buy for and, based on your financial assessment, budget how much you plan to spend on each person.

2. Set aside money –Now that you’ve taken the time to analyze your financial situation, you may have found areas where you can cut costs. Can you forgo your weekly pedicure or trip out with co-workers after work and instead put that money toward holiday gifts? Then, make sure you aren’t tempted to spend that extra money on frivolous items.

“If you don’t already have a savings account specifically for the holidays, commonly known to some as a ‘Christmas Club,’ create one,” said John Lal, founder and CEO of BeFrugal.com, in an article in U.S. News & World Report Money. “It’s much easier to leave money untouched if it isn’t easily accessible.”

3. Start shopping now – Spread out your spending and make the holidays more manageable by starting to check off your gift list early.

“Sock away money for presents, and you still have to do your shopping later. But salt away actual gifts, and you’ve saved time and money,” said freelance finance writer Dana Dratch for Bankrate.com.

Shopping ahead means you can make the most of sales and seasonal pricing trends; the challenge is planning out more thoughtful gifts, as you have to consider whether the recipient will still enjoy that item come December. Finally, stick to your budget. Planning ahead will do you no good if you end up overspending anyway.

4. Book your travel early – CEO of CheapAir.com Jeff Klee and his staff went through over 560 million fare search records in 2013 and found that seven weeks in advance is the best time to book airfare, and even earlier if you’ll be traveling during a high-traffic time period, such as — you guessed it — the holidays.

Furthermore, consider what else you may want to do during that time frame as well.

“If you’re opting for a high-traffic destination, a cruise or an international jaunt, book those tickets and hotel rooms early,” Dratch wrote.  

Don’t let money woes add to your holiday stress; allow yourself to enjoy the upcoming season more by planning ahead and starting early. You’ll be happy you did.


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