Money expert Jean Chatzky tells us how to survive the holidays without going into the red.
"With unemployment at 10.2 percent, many people are wondering how they are going to be able to afford the holidays," says financial guru Jean Chatzky. But with a little planning, it CAN be done, she says. Here are her top tips.
• If you are going to charge gifts on your credit card, make sure you can pay them off no later than February. Otherwise, use cash or a debit card.
• Look at your finances. Is there anything you can cut back on in the next month to offset holiday spending?
• Make a holiday budget. It should be 1 to 1 1/2 percent of your annual take-home pay. (Go to my website to try out my holiday spending calculator.) Expect that you will go over the budget, just like you would on a home renovation. And be sure to factor in the cost of wrapping paper, entertaining, and holiday foods -- that's all part of it.
• Raid your kids' gift card stash. My kids are constantly getting gift cards for this or that, and I stockpile them -- especially if they have ten or twenty dollars left on a card they've already used. They never even notice when I spend them!
• Buy a gift for the whole family instead of gifts for each individual person.
• Give the gift of yourself in less expensive ways than you have in previous years. Bake cookies or brownies, or give babysitting coupons.
• Small local charities are really hurting this year. Give a donation in a friend's name. When they receive a card letting them know you've made a donation, they won't know HOW MUCH you gave.
• If the one thing your kid wants most is out of your price range, see if you can get Grandpa, Grandma, or even aunts and uncles to pitch in. Kids are feeling the stress too this year -- so if they get that one "big" present on their list, it will really mean a lot.
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