Last-Minute Holiday Budgeting Tips

By Linsey Knerl | November 30, 2010 AAA

As shoppers kick their gift buying into high gear, it can be tempting to throw anything and everything into your shopping cart. However, not having a clear plan for spending, being unaware of your spending habits and failing to use your resources wisely can lead to devastating budget woes. Check out our tips for keeping a lid on expenses and avoiding holiday spending hangovers. (We give you a list of informative and entertaining reads that you'll want to share with others this season. Check out 10 Books For The Holidays.)

IN PICTURES: 8 Easy Ways To Slash Your Holiday Budget

Check Your List - Twice
Getting real about what you can spend may not be as thrilling as buying everyone on your list the gift they deserve, but it will certainly keep you from experiencing credit card remorse. Start by writing a list of everyone you buy gifts for and give each one careful consideration. Will your six-month old baby care if you only buy one modest gift instead of that pricey play house and designer tea dress? Can you get by with one gift for your couple-friends instead of springing for separate his and her gifts? If there is any way to tactfully cut corners, consider it a great way to save.

Track Trends
If you're determined to buy the hottest tech toy for your son or daughter, it's wise to start tracking the pricing trends right now. Keep a small notebook with the going rate on major sites like Amazon, Walmart and Target, and be prepared to buy when the item gets low. Unlike stocks, you won't have all year to make your decision, so be mindful of the few remaining weeks before the holidays. Anything more than 20% off is a great deal and offers of free shipping or a gift card with purchase make the deal even sweeter. Track prices across several retailers by using sites like Price Grabber, and sign up for their notification service that alerts you to price drops by email.

Shop after the Holidays
It's a common scenario: You hustle to the store to buy a last-minute, overpriced gift, only to find that the recipient won't be coming into town until two weeks after the holiday. By waiting until just before they arrive, you could actually save yourself quite a bit of hassle, and you may find a significant price drop by shopping after the season. If you have the luxury of putting off your purchase until the after-holiday sales start, do so - we won't tell! (Find out which of the five profiles fits your style and how this will affect your future. Read Test Your Money Personality.)

Get Comfortable with Negotiation
Not every price is set in stone, and while it may be impossible to haggle down the asking price on a sweat suit from a mega-store, the unique gift from a specialty shop may be subject to negotiation. As store managers near the holidays, it may be more important that they are able to see merchandise move rather than have to dump it after the season at a loss. If you can meet them halfway with a reasonable offer that will help them with their holiday sales figures, you might find yourself with a deal. Other types of merchandise that you can talk down 5% or more include appliances, cars, vacations and jewelry. By bringing a lower-priced competing sale ad to your talks, you can almost guarantee success.

IN PICTURES: 8 Financial Tips For Young Adults

Exercise Control
Cyber shopping is convenient, but for many it is too convenient. The ability to purchase seemingly good deals with the click of a mouse has many consumers loading up carts without ever feeling the pain of the purchase - for now. To avoid ringing in the New Year with financial regrets, commit to only buying items that you have on your pared-down list, and be wary of extras that can push your online total to the sky. Shipping (especially as the holidays get closer), tax and other add-ons can easily blow a well-intentioned budget.

The Bottom Line
As with most financial meltdowns, the little things do kill. Don't ever lose track of spending, and be diligent to mind the mid-shopping lattes and other treats for yourself. The holidays are always brighter without the burden of purchases you can't afford! (If you don't know how the recession began, read on to learn more. See The 2007-08 Financial Crisis In Review.)

Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: Insiders, Door Busters And Debt Contagion.

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