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Budgeting: Holiday Budgeting Center

It's the time of year for giving gifts, entertaining, hosting holiday parties – and for many, overspending and financial stress. Setting a realistic holiday budget and making sure to stick to it are the first steps to a more affordable and less stressful season. Use the tips and tools below to enjoy the season without letting holiday spending get the better of you.

Holiday Spending Survival Guide

Holiday Spending Survival Guide
If you love to celebrate the holidays but don't love the financial pinch you experience afterward, there are several great tricks for giving and celebrating, without breaking the bank. Read more

Entertainment Calculator

Entertainment Calculator
If you don't plan ahead, you may spend more on entertainment than you expected. This tool will help you track your holiday spending. Calculate

1. Set Your Budget
The best way to start making a holiday budget is to look at your spending during last year's holiday season. In what areas did you spend more than planned? Next, make a list of the holiday purchases and events you plan to spend money on this year. Consider all of your major spending categories like gifts, entertaining, meals, and travel and then estimate how much you can afford to spend in each category. Have a "micro budget" – a specific spending limit – for each person on your gift list. Many financial planners recommend spending no more than 1.5 percent of annual income on holiday expenses.

Knowing your spending goals long beforehand will help you stay on track financially as the season heats up. This easy-to-use Holiday Budget Calculator can help.

2. Get Creative
One great way to save money and impress friends and family is to get creative. Store-bought gifts are great, but homemade gifts are often more meaningful and most recipients truly appreciate your time and effort. Ideas for creative gift projects are plentiful online. Sites like this one should give you a few ideas to start with.

If you like the idea of a personal touch and affordability but don't have the time or skill to make gifts yourself, the ultimate marketplace for homemade gifts is Etsy, where you can find crafty items from over 200,000 sellers.

3. Join Together
Instead of excessively spending money on each other this year, join together with family members to help those who may be less fortunate. Online opportunities are easy to find, and there are several in this article, "Helping others when money is tight." Other opportunities for online giving can be found at the websites for Oxfam International and ACCION.

4. Travel Wisely
If you plan on traveling, take some time to determine how much it will cost you with our Holiday Travel Planner and don't forget these holiday travel planning tips.

5. Entertain for Less
Holidays are a wonderful time to entertain, but a little planning and budgeting can help you avoid financial headaches. Let our Holiday Entertainment Planner help you ensure a fun event that won't tax you financially. Also check out these holiday entertainment tips to help you keep your holiday budget in shape.

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