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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
Money Management (11/14/2007)
Avoid overspending during the holidays

Buying gifts for loved ones and traveling to see family can be expensive. As the holidays draw near, there are many simple spending habits that can help you conserve cash and cut down on overspending, according to the Minnesota Society of CPAs (MNCPA). That way, you wonít have to use credit cards for your holiday purchases and rack up expensive interest charges.

Make a plan

To ensure you can afford your holiday wish list, begin planning now. Start by making a list of the gifts youíd like to buy; the traveling youíre likely to do and other expected expenses. For each one, come up with a realistic estimate of its cost.

Now, consider how much spare cash youíre likely to have for these purchases. If you donít have a written budget, list your regular expenses, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries and commuting costs. Total up your take-home pay as well as any other money you expect to receive or savings you might have set aside for holiday expenditures. Deduct your regular expenses from the total to find out how much you have left to spend on the holidays.

Look for savings opportunities

If the amount you have to spend wonít cover your wish list, start seeking places to trim costs. Options include:

* Junk the java. If youíre spending several dollars a day on pricey lattes, youíll be amazed at how much you save by bringing your coffee to work in a thermos.

* Make a grocery shopping list and stick to it. If you plan and shop for a weekís worth of meals in advance, you wonít give in to the temptation to bring home a high-priced takeout meal.

* Choose eating in over eating out. Remember that taking out is usually less expensive than dining in a restaurant. Youíll probably eat fewer courses and eliminate paying a tip.

* Bring a calculator with you when you shop. This helps you keep track of your total and discourages impulse purchases of more expensive items.

* Brown bag it. Bringing your lunch from home will lower your daily outlays significantly.

* Use your library card. Check out books and movies from the library for free.

* Carpool. Travel with a co-worker to save on gas and parking costs. If thatís not an option, find out if public transportation would be a cheaper choice.

* Leave your credit card at home. If you keep it in your wallet at all times, itís available for purchases made on a whim. Carry it only when you know youíll need it.

* Limit the cash you carry. The less you have, the less you will be able to spend.

* If you usually spend a lot of money at salons before holiday parties, let a trainee cut your hair or give you that manicure. Many hair salons or beauty schools offer services given by trainees at lower rates.

* Plan simpler parties. You can entertain while on a budget during the holidays by using your creativity. Throw a theme party and ask everyone to bring a dish from a different ethnic group, for example.

Let your CPA help

There are many simple ways to cut back on daily costs and reduce your long-term expenses as well. Ask your CPA for advice on the steps necessary to make a real difference in your financial life, now and throughout the year. For more smart spending tips, check out www.feedthepig.org, a Web site created by CPAs to help you build a solid financial future.

Information and resources are available to the public on the MNCPA Web site (www.mncpa.org/information) including state and federal tax forms and information and financial planning information for individuals and small businesses. A free CPA referral service is also available on the Web site or by calling 800-331-4288. The MNCPA is part of the national 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy campaign to help Americansí improve financial literacy; information and resources are available at www.mncpa.org/360.



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