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Hey Big Spender!

There's a lot to be done in the days and weeks leading up to the holidays, and it’s easy to go overboard on holiday spending when you factor in gift shopping, get-togethers and travel plans. These tried-and-true and tech-savvy tools can help you set a holiday budget and stick to it.

Follow these three simple steps to holiday budgeting success:

Step 1: Make a gift list of people and spending limits for each person.
Step 2: Use budget-friendly tools to help you stay within your limits.
Step 3: Track your spending along the way

Step 1 - Make a gift list.

Making your shopping list work a little harder for you can be easy. Simply jot down the name of the people on your gift list, what you need to buy, how much you plan to spend, and the amount you actually spent. Get started now with this easy-to-use holiday gift list and budget tracker. You can save a copy to your computer, or print a copy to take with you while shopping.

For tech-savvy holiday shoppers, the question isn’t IF there’s an app for holiday budgeting, but WHICH one to choose. A search for holiday shopping on the app store will serve up plenty of options. The best advice in choosing the right holiday budget app is to find one that works for you. Detail-oriented individuals who track every holiday-related expense down to gift tags and bows may like an app such as Holiday Budget. Those who like to keep track of the status of the gift-giving process – purchased, wrapped, shipped – may be interested in The Christmas List iPhone app.

Step 2 - Use budget-friendly tools to help you stay within your limits.

Setting a budget is pointless if you don’t stay within the limits. Shop early and compare prices to avoid last-minute purchases that exceed your budget. Download apps for your favorite stores or those on your gift-giving list. Many stores offer coupons and discounts that can be redeemed from your device in the store. No more clipping coupons or rushing out in the early morning hours of Black Friday shopping madness – unless you want to, of course. There are also a number of apps that can help you comparison shop. RedLaser and PriceGrabber will search local and online retailers to find the best price on your gift items.

Step 3 - Track your spending.

Holiday shopping adds up quickly, so it’s easy to lose track of your spending. Keep track of receipts, and immediately enter purchase amounts in your budget spreadsheet. Seeing budget-busters on paper or onscreen can help you reign in your spending before more damage is done. Apps such as OneReceipt for iPhones or Expensify  for Android users let you store email and paper receipts. Keeping receipts can also make exchanges and returns less stressful. Make sure to ask about the store’s policy when buying gifts.

By following these three step for holiday budget success, you can enjoy the holidays and welcome the New Year with excitement instead of credit card debt.

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