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Six Steps to Happier Holidays!
By Susan Powell

I love and look forward to the holiday season as much as the next person, but I'll be first to admit that as much as this is true, I simultaneously feel a great sense of anxiety when the festive season approaches. I look forward to quality time with family and friends but money is stressful every other month of the year and it's intensified during the holidays.

Christmas parties, gifts and great times lend well to holiday excitement and sadly, great expense. I want so badly to be wholly excited, yet I find myself dreading the obsessive calculations from the frenzied activity in my checkbook, more activity than my checkbook sees all year.

Fortunately for those of us who experience a nagging anxiety tugging at our heart and purse strings, there are ways to relieve these feelings to make the holidays feel almost as joyous as you remember before you had the burden of paying for them.

Start this holiday season by getting organized: Maintain a week by week calendar of upcoming events for you and your family during this holiday season. This will help you visualize where you need to be and what you need for each upcoming week. Organization will guide you through the holidays by keeping you focused and will allow you to maximize your money, time and resources. This will further help you avoid last minute panics!

Create a spending strategy: If you're concerned about gift giving and don't want to make a dent in your savings or rely on plastic to foot the bill for Santa, discuss your feelings with your spouse, family or significant other. Don't be afraid of money stress. You're not alone. Create a strategy to survive the expense of the holiday season. If discussing the issue with children, help them understand that in the real world some years are financially better than others. Money is tight for millions of Americans and if you spend frugally through the holiday season, you may be able to do something special later in the year when money is more certain.

Paper or plastic? Create a pay plan: I once wholeheartedly believed "charging it" allowed me to preserve my cash for a later date. Remember, if you charge it, you're only delaying when and how much extra you'll pay for purchases. Determine in advance how much you can afford to spend this year and how you want to pay for it. You'll feel much better when the holiday season is over that you're not still paying for it!

Shop early. Shop sales: If you wait until the last minute to do your holiday shopping, you risk missing current sales and overspending on unnecessary purchases, often the result of feeling guilty about procrastinating. Take advantage of sales everywhere to get the most for your dollar and don't forget stores that regularly carry discounted merchandise. One of my favorites is Tuesday Morning. This store typically carries a little of everything and the prices are significantly lower than major department stores.

Get creative when gift giving: Gift giving shouldn't cost a fortune. The most valuable gifts sometimes come in the smallest package. People often do without little things they desire because they don't want to spend money on themselves. This is where you come in. Get creative!

Take inventory: Take time to determine what you have and need to prepare for the holiday season. To survive the cooking and baking that go hand in hand with the holidays, make a list of what's needed. Use your list when grocery shopping to avoid overspending and use coupons to save money.

Follow these simple steps to prepare for the holiday season: Get organized, create an spending strategy and a "pay" plan, shop early and take advantage of sales, get creative when gift-giving and do an inventory of what you need to make it through the often hectic holidays. Being prepared ensures less stress and a happier holiday season.

See Also:

10 Creative Ways to Give from the Heart, Not the Pocketbook
Meaningful gift giving doesnít have to be expensive. In fact, some of the most precious gifts are the ones that cost very little, but mean a great deal because of the time and effort the giver took in giving the gift.

Letís Do Something Different For the Holidays This Year!
Each year, for too many of us, the holiday season just doesnít live up to our expectations. Instead of joy, it brings stress; instead of peace, it brings tension; instead of love, it brings animosity. This holiday, letís do something different.

Christmas IS Celebration!
Faith, hope and love cannot be bought or sold but only given away. These are the wellsprings deep of Christmas celebration.

Copyright (c) Susan Powell, 2003

Addressing issues of predatory lending, Susan Powell is a debt prevention/financial literacy expert and author of the new book "Credit Card Debt: It Can Cost You Your Life". She frequently writes and speaks on the subject of financial literacy. Visit her online and follow her newly launched webBLOG at http://www.dontdodebt.com/

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