Five Ways To Avoid Holiday Splurging

In case you hadn't realized it yet, we're into the second week of November already. Christmas will be here before we know it, and the focus is on our family gatherings. There are groceries to buy, presents to find, rooms to decorate and traveling to plan. How long is your list now?

The difference between breaking the bank over the next two months and being a good steward of the money God has given you is in planning. There is nothing wrong with buying and decorating and traveling, but there is danger in splurging - at the moment and down the road.

Instead, try these five tips in order and make the decision to spend wisely during the next six weeks.

1. Make a budget. Look at any debt you already have, the money coming in over the next two months and how much you can safely spend. Sit down with your husband to make some clear boundaries for the holidays. Know your financial situation better than anything else in your life or it will take over everything. Pull out cash along the way, put it in an envelope labeled "Christmas" or "Groceries" and when it's gone, it's gone.

2. Stick to the budget. There will be great sales, there will be temptation and there will be deals they call "Too good to pass up." You can pass them up, and you should pass them up, if they throw your planning completely out of whack. Spending $50 on something marked 75% off is a great bargain, but not if your budget only allows you to spend $20 to begin with. Nobody wants to receive any gift wrapped with guilt and tied with a ribbon of debt. Stick with the limits you set on your money.

3. Make a list. This is my favorite part of the whole thing! Think, plan, decide, look ahead and write it all down. Talk to your husband about how much you can safely afford to budget for Thanksgiving meals, Christmas gifts and holiday decorating. Then plan your shopping trips accordingly. Take lists of gift ideas with you, make out your grocery list while you look at your cookbooks. Have it all written down so can see where is dollar is going.

4. Stick to the list. And make no excuses. "But little Susie will love that 2700 piece crayon box with the flip top lid, three built-in sharpeners and neon carrying case!" If you didn't plan for it, don't get it. Or be willing to sacrifice something else in its place. If we can talk ourselves into buying just about anything, we can also talk ourselves out of it. Our finances are the first and best place to have self-control this holiday season. You can't work off debt on the treadmill.

5. Be accountable. Choose an accountability partner and check in regularly during the holidays. This could easily be your husband, but you might pick a friend who will be ruthless with you. You don't have to share exact amounts spent, but it should be someone who will make you justify your purchases and the motives behind them. Shop with them, or just call during your planning time or after you return. Knowing there's someone waiting to hear about your spending habits will make you think seriously about what you buy.

In the end, we each have to make serious decisions about what our money is truly worth. Yes, having several piles of gifts under the tree would be nice, but splurging on one event isn't worth it in your pocketbook's eyes. Self-control and moderation will ensure that we all have a happy, healthy, financially sound Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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