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Five tips on how to avoid overspending this Christmas

Photo courtesy of

It's December, and the wallet is hollering your name. What to get persnickety aunt Hilda?

Well, you've got your holiday shopping list. So, what's the financial plan?

Here are five tips on how to avoid a "bulging budget" from a popular credit card.

1. Limit holiday spending to 1.5 percent of your annual household income

"Be realistic with your spending," Melissa Cassar, head of corporate and public affairs for Visa Canada, advised.

Melissa Cassar, Photo courtesy of Visa Canada

Cassar recommends shoppers utilize online tools, such as Practical Money Skills, to help with budgeting. "That will help you determine your overall budget," she said.

Photo courtesy of photostock

2. Develop a "micro budget"

Once you've thought out your overall budget, decide how much you'd like to spend per person. That's your micro budget.

"Maybe you'll go and buy a gift for one person and realize that you've spent half your budget, and then you need to reassess your budget," Cassar pointed out.

Reassess? I'm tired already.

3. Use pre-paid cards

Visa offers pre-paid cards that you can pay in advance, "so you're definitely stuck with a card the amount on the card that you purchased," Cassar said.

Smart, very smart indeed.

There's also debit for folks who'd rather "pay now" or credit for those who prefer to "pay later."

4. Stick to the list, whatever you do

Oh, you better. Cassar said that shopping online's great. You can look for fabulous things like coupons. For example, with "Visa perks," you can get coupons to shop online or in-store. But shopping at the mall's fun too. And sure, sing along to the prerecorded carols, but whatever you do don't let go of that shopping list.

Go with the micro budget and buy only what's on the list. Visit only the stores you need to make purchases on the list. "You'll be less likely to spend more money if you stick to the list," Cassar said.

5. Don't leave it to the last minute

"Panic shopping is not what you want to do," Cassar warned.
Make sure you thought about it and are not buying things just because "they're there."

Of course, homemade gifts make for stellar presents, mostly all of the time. Create a collage, make a mix tape, write a poem. Spend the holidays with your closest and dearest, and you'll have all the presents you need.

Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti

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