Happy Holidays on a Budget

Put away the plastic and put a realistic plan in place.

The holiday season brings a blizzard of temptations and guilt trips that can lead to out-of-control spending on gifts. And that often leads to a post-holiday hangover in the form of credit-card debt. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2008 the average holiday shopper spent more than $900, and about one-third of shoppers used credit as their primary method of payment.

It’s wonderful to be in the spirit of giving, of course, but think it through before you go gift-wild at the mall. Buying even modest gifts for a long list of friends and relatives will add up fast. And remind yourself, the holidays are not just about presents.

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Contributing Writer, Kiplinger.com