Category: Budgeting
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Presents, family meals and decorations all put a strain on your wallet.

Creating a holiday budget and sticking to it can help keep you on track. Here are some budgeting tips for the busiest shopping season of the year.

oDon't just budget; track your spending, too. While setting a budget is a good first step, it won't help you save money in the long run if you don't track your spending to see if you stuck with the original budget.

List your spending categories: Include gifts (be sure to list them), decorations, holiday cards, gift-wrapping supplies, etc. Set practical spending goals for each of these categories, and then be sure to track how much you actually spend.

Get the inside track for sales: You can get access to special deals and sales by following retailers on social media. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or simply subscribe to an email newsletter, many retailers will thank you for your loyalty with discounts and coupons that are not offered to the general public.

Avoid impulse buys: Holiday sales can be especially tempting (Black Friday and Cyber Monday for example), but the fantastic deals on these days also can lead to impulse buys.

If an item isn't on the list of planned purchases from your budget, wait at least 24 hours. After you've slept on it, if you still want the unplanned item, see if you can work it into the budget without straining your other financial obligations.

Save your budget for next year: After the holidays, don't throw away this year's holiday budget. Save it and use it as a model for next year's shopping. Make notes of where you deviated from the original budget, so that next year's is more accurate.

You also can use the gift lists from year to year. If you know well in advance what items you want to buy, you can shop for them during the season when they're cheapest, rather than during the holidays.

Tracy L. Knoll is deposit, operations, and marketing supervisor for KeySavings Bank.