I don't know about you, but it seems to me that Christmas advertising starts up sooner and sooner each year, almost catching us off guard with its lack of subtlety and overbearing glitz. In an attempt to establish some base sanity before the rat race begins, I have compiled a few financial tips to go through before we start getting inundated with how retail companies want us to celebrate this holy holiday.

Have a plan (and a budget)

Having a plan and a budget can go far in preventing impulse Christmas buying. It decreases the number of times you go shopping and can help curb extraneous spending. With all the advertising you get for Black Friday sales, planning can be daunting, but it makes the experience less hectic and helps you stay focused. Also consider using a cash budget instead of just a floating number in your head. This way you only have a certain amount to spend and are more likely to use that money for what you planned to purchase only.

Consider alternatives

Despite what retail companies want you to think, Christmas doesn't have to be shiny, brand new and bigger and better than last year. Consider gifts that are more meaningful, but don't have the price tag to go along with them. It takes a little more thought, but my favorite gifts from my wife are the little ones that show me she took the time to think about what I like, whether it be a jar of gourmet salsa or a used greatest hits album off of Amazon. You may need to get a little more creative with your children, but try to focus more on experiences than things.

"Invest" it instead of "spending" it

No, not in the stock market. I mean in your family. One way you can do this is to forego Christmas presents and use that money to give Christmas to another family. Another way is to put that money toward a family trip. While you may not be saving any money, you will be creating memorable experiences that your kids will never forget. I don't remember very many of the gifts I received while growing up, but I definitely remember the times we gave as a family at Christmastime, as well as the family vacations we took.

Get a Christmas savings account

Although this may not help you this year, it's one of my favorite types of bank accounts. You can set it up with your bank around November or December and contribute any amount monthly. The bank then makes the funds available at the beginning of the following November, just in time to start thinking about gifts. You typically get penalized for early withdrawal, but the idea is to make it easier to save for Christmas and to lessen the blow at the end of the year when you deplete all your funds to go toward Christmas. It can also help with the budgeting because you only have a certain amount saved up to work with at the beginning of each November.

Christmastime is a time of joy and fun. It's a time to celebrate with friends and family. But it can also be a time of financial stress and irresponsibility. Take the time to think about how you want to make your Christmas more enjoyable by being financially responsible, and I guarantee it will be even more wonderful than ever before.

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