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Fulton Bank

Holiday Budget: 'Tis the season

It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can feel pretty unpleasant when you overspend on gifts, food, and decorations. Americans typically spend more than $1,000 during the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation, and much of it is financed with credit cards.

However, your holiday spirit doesn't have to break the bank. Follow these tips to get through the season debt-free.

1. Make a holiday budget...and stick to it

Just because the average consumer shells out more than $1,000 doesn't mean you have to. Look through your finances to decide how much you can comfortably spend this year, then assign dollar amounts to each spending category such as gifts, holiday parties, and holiday meals. Paying in cash can also help you avoid overspending. Plus, it'll ensure you won't be paying off holiday gifts in July.

2. Make your list and check it twice (or more)

Before you step foot into a store, write down all the people you're shopping for and your price limits. Remember to include teachers, babysitters, and building maintenance workers, or anyone else who you might want to acknowledge. With a list in hand, you'll be less susceptible to making impulse purchases.

3. Buy gifts early

Who says holiday shopping only happens after the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten and the cranberry sauce is polished off? If you see a great price on a gift throughout the year, snag it. When holiday madness hits its peak in December, you'll be glad that you’re ahead of schedule.

4. DIY holiday gifts

Skip the crowds by making holiday gifts at your kitchen table. A jar of pickles, a knitted hat, or a handcrafted pair of earrings are sure to delight as much as something purchased from a big box store.

5. Keep it in perspective

The holidays are stressful. Don't add to the frenzy with overspending. Staying on budget will let you focus on the things that matter—your family and loved ones.