Don't blow the holiday budget

Amey Stone

Beware the last ten shopping days until Christmas. That’s when it gets late to hunt for a deal online or hope to stumble across that perfect gift while browsing at the mall. Suddenly pricey items like a $250 iPod may seem like a bargain for your nephew, a $298 Coach purse a steal for your mother-in-law.

I felt tell-tale prickles of terror creeping up my spine (so little time, such a long list of gifts yet to buy) while doing some holiday shopping over the weekend with my four-year-old and 18-month-old in tow. Panic set in near a display of $105 cashmere sweaters at Lord & Taylor. Who wouldn’t want one of these? I was tempted to pick up a half dozen to fill out half my shopping list in one fell swoop.

I resisted the urge and moved on (aided by my strapped-in toddler staging a stroller revolt). Rule No. 1 for not blowing your budget during the holidays: Don’t give a $100 gift when a $25 one will do just fine. It may not sound in keeping with the holiday spirit -- and all rules are meant to be broken at least once -- but I try to keep it in mind when tempted to blow big money on gifts in the few shopping days we have left.

Here’s some other guidelines for keeping holiday spending in control:

-Decide how much you want to spend on each person on your list and stick to that amount.

-Let prior spending be your guide. If your mother-in-law is going to give you a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, she may really not appreciate getting a Coach bag in return.

-No matter who it is for, never spend more than $1,000 on a holiday gift, unless it is something of enduring value that can be passed down to future generations. (I wrote a story a year ago about how the rich stay rich and that was one of the chief tenets.)

-Check out this list on for more ideas on how to save at holiday time.

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