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.

by Airman 1st Class Ariel D. Delgado
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

11/20/2014-Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas--For most, the holidays are a time of joy, celebration, and family reunions. For others, the season can emphasize stressors, such as family separation, traveling, and last minute workload.

The holidays are also the toughest time of the year when it comes to financial budgeting. The lights, music, decorations and delicious seasonal scents tend to weaken most people into swiping their credit cards.

And what hurts peoples wallets the most... last minute shopping.

But what if you were told that the holiday financial stress can be avoided? What if you were told that Laughlin has the resources to help you get through?

Here, at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, we can help with those having difficulties with their holiday finances, said Anthony Williams 47th Force Support Squadron community readiness consultant. Planning is key.

The AFRC has provided a few tips to help with holiday shopping to avoid any financial troubles.

Start by making a spending plan. Make a list of usual purchases, from gifts to food to entertainment to travel expenses.

Always know your limits. Set a spending cap on gifts and prioritize for whom youd like purchase a gift for.

Make sure to track purchases to avoid overspending. It may help to keep a journal to write down all expenses.

Avoid impulse buying by shopping with a list. Know what youre there for. A good way to ensure you spend what you have is by paying with either cash or debit. Leave the credit cards at home, no one likes paying interest.

There are many stressors that can be brought about by the holidays, said Aliyah Negley, 47th Flying Training Wing Community Support Coordinator. However, Laughlin has multiple resources, such as the mental health clinic, Family Advocacy Program, Military Family Life Consultant, Airman Family Readiness, chapel, in place to support those in need, which in turn builds and cultivates a resilient individual and community.

The AFRC has consultants available for briefings with organizations and groups on base to talk about financial issues by request.

Let the holidays be a time of joy and not of stress, said Williams. Keep in mind that finances are important all year round.

To schedule an appointment with the AFRC, call 298-5620.

Editor#039;s note: This article originally ran on It has been reprinted here with permission.

Is your idea of a budget simply spending till your checking account is nearly empty? Or worse, till your credit limit is exhausted?

If so, you may be thinking of your budget simply as the limits on your financial resources, and not as a tool to take control of your financial future. If you would like a budget that is based more on planning than on reacting, try these six steps:

1. Track your expenses

Save a receipt for everything you buy and a copy of every bill you pay, and at the end of the day, list the item and the amount on a spreadsheet or into the budgeting software of your choice. This will become the building block for your budget, but the consciousness that comes with this kind of tracking may also make you think twice about certain expenses.

2. Think ahead

The above exercise should give you an idea of what you routinely spend from month to month, but next you have to think ahead about less-routine expenses. For example, how long will it be before you next have to buy a car? Is there a vacation in your future, or perhaps some home repairs? Estimate the cost of these items and add them in alongside your routine expenses, to see what your budget will look like when these things start to occur.

3. Budget for savings

Too often, people look at budgeting simply as a method of planning spending, but it should also be a method of planning savings. If you define savings merely as what#039;s left over after all the spending is done, then you will likely find your savings to be sporadic and inadequate. Build a healthy contribution to a retirement saving account into your budget. That will make it harder to stretch your dollars over your other expenses, but it will give long-term savings a fighting chance of competing for attention alongside all those other demands.

4. Build a buffer

Besides long-term retirement savings, try to build up a buffer of a few months#039; worth of expenses. This will allow you to deal with unexpected expenses without completely throwing off your planned budget.

5. Project cash flow

So far, this exercise has focused on outflows, but now it#039;s time to take a look at your income. Make a projection of your household after-tax income over the next few years. Factor in expected wage increases, but be realistic and be sure to account for any increase in taxes that would result. You should now have the basis for comparing income and outflow over the next few years.

6. Cut expenses till cash flow is positive

Even if you#039;ve been making ends meet from month to month, you might be surprised to find that adding in retirement savings plus anticipating non-routine expenses results in negative cash flow when you line up your income and your outflows. Don#039;t panic — foreseeing problems like that is one of the purposes of budgeting. Now you have to make some hard choices about what expenses to cut, but this way you can make planned choices, rather than having choices forced on you when your money runs out.

People avoid formal budgeting because it can seem hard to get started. In the long run though, it can actually make your life much easier.

Richard Barrington is a personal finance expert for He has earned the CFA designation and is a 20-year veteran of the financial industry.

The latest numbers show Lawrence Memorial Hospital is having a better-than-expected financial year in 2014, and hospital leaders are budgeting for a solid 2015 as well.

The hospital's board of directors on Wednesday approved a 2015 budget that estimates the not-for-profit hospital will take in about $7.8 million more in revenue than expenses. That's on top of new numbers that estimate the hospital will make about $8.6 million this year. That's about $1.5 million better than hospital officials had budgeted for at the beginning of the year.

Gene Meyer, president and CEO of LMH, said the hospital had not experienced the same type of slowdowns some other hospitals had seen in patient volumes.

"I think we have been able to sustain some success because our volumes have held fairly stable," Meyer said. "Some hospitals that are suffering have seen a 20 percent decrease in inpatient activity. We haven't seen that, and we've also done a good job of controlling our costs."

Meyer said the trend in the insurance industry of offering more "high deductible" health care plans has hurt many hospitals because people have been more reluctant to get health care treatment because they are concerned about paying the out-of-pocket costs associated with those health care plans.

Meyer said LMH has been able to avoid some of that slowdown by reducing the number of Douglas County residents who are traveling outside the community for health care services.

"We are serving more people," Meyer said. "We think we're serving some people who were going elsewhere previously."

LMH is budgeting to collect about $190 million in net patient revenues in 2015, up from a projected $182 million in 2014. The 2015 budget also includes funding for the equivalent of 18 new full-time positions at the hospital. The new positions are a mix of patient care and regulatory positions. Several of the positions aren't entirely new to the hospital, but rather are rehabilitation therapists who had been working at the hospital for a contractor but now are being added to the LMH payroll.

As a not-for-profit, city-owned facility, the hospital technically does not make a profit. Instead, it uses its revenues over expenses to fund improvements at the hospital and to build up reserves to cushion against future downturns.

The 2015 budget includes about $7.8 million worth of capital improvements at the hospital. The largest project will be a $3.1 million renovation of the hospital's inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing unit. Janice Early, LMH's vice president of marketing and communications, said the rehabilitation will convert the shared patient rooms into private rooms, add a dining area for rehabilitation patients, and even an area designed to replicate an apartment so that stroke victims and other patients can work on regaining some of the skills they'll need to return home.

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