Budget-Friendly Tips for the Last-Minute Holiday Shopper

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InCharge Debt Solutions offers smart shopping ideas to stay on budget.

The 2006 Holiday shopping season is officially underway. Christmas songs have hit the airwaves, catalogues and holiday greetings fill the mailbox, and the temptation to 'shop till you drop' is rampant. But, is your wallet ready?

The cost of the holidays can very quickly add up if proper money management isn't in place, notes InCharge Debt Solutions, a non-profit, charitable credit counselling and financial education organization.

"Many people have a harder time balancing their feelings of generosity with the realities of their modest incomes, and that is a surefire way to give yourself the post-holiday blues come January," notes InCharge Executive Director Greg Gogan.

For many people, it is not too late to plot out where they are in their holiday spending, and adjust accordingly during these remaining few weeks. The key is to keep your budget in perspective, and use your credit card responsibly. While it might feel good to present everyone in the family with a new computer, resist the urge to 'keep up with the Joneses.'

"We're in the business of counselling people on how to get out of burdensome debt, but we also take seriously our responsibility to help educate people to stay within their means," said Gogan. "And the truth is, there are plenty of ways to show friends and family that you care over the holidays that won't leave you feeling broke come January 1."

Budget-Friendly Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season:

•Sit down and plot out every single person that is on your gift-giving list. Try to anticipate holiday expenses relating to co-workers, in-school parties for your children and other holiday activities.

•Once you've got your list, figure out how much you can reasonably spend on each person without loading up your credit cards.

•Keep your own temptations at bay this holiday season. If you can resist the urge to purchase that new sweater or digital camera until after the holidays, you could easily use that money to show someone else how much they mean to you.

•Give the gift that keeps on giving. For as little as $15 or $20, you can get a year's subscription to many great magazines. For the movie lover, how about a one or two month subscription to a DVD rental service, movie passes or gift certificates to a local movie rental store?

•Be the 'designated photographer' at this year's holiday party, and then present your friends and family with a photo album filled with the day's photos.

•If you have a video camera, how about sending a Happy Holidays video greeting to friends and relatives they can watch on their computer?

•Awaken your inner baker and make a large batch of holiday cookies, fudge or homemade jam to split between school teachers, babysitters and neighbours.

•Keep your friends and family on track with a calendar for the new year, marked with important birthdays and anniversaries.

•Give the gift of giving. If you truly believe 'tis the season to give, act on your best impulses to set aside time to do the volunteer work you've always wanted to do. Including a note about your experiences in holiday cards might be the best gift you can give to those in your gift giving circle.

•Remember; when the jingle bells stop ringing the sales begin. A $20 gift card will go much further after the holidays due to post-holiday sales. If you can't afford that special item on your loved one's wish list, get them a gift card to put towards their special purchase after the holidays.

For more information, including money-saving tips and budgeting assistance, please visit http://www.inchargecanada.ca

InCharge Debt Solutions is a registered charitable, non-profit organization offering financial education programs, confidential and professional credit counselling, and debt management to individuals. InCharge is committed to providing services that help consumers pay off their debts and achieve financial independence. A member of Credit Counselling Canada, InCharge offers services in most regions of the country. For more information, please visit http://www.inchargecanada.ca.

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Linda Daves
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