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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Planning helps some avoid holiday overspending

By Michelle Craig
The Arizona Republic

We do it every year.

Christmas is right around the corner, yet we put off shopping until the holiday season is in full swing. And after following a whirlwind of spending and gifting, we are often times in debt or are regretful of spending too much money. Then the stress sets in. Is there a way to really have a very merry Christmas without going broke?

For Stephanie Adams of Phoenix, budgeting early helps her not go into debt. Her credit cards cut up and long gone, she plans around the money she knows she will have.

"I try to spend about $25-35 on each nephew," says Adams, 53.

For other family members, "I try to budget within my range." Adams adds that she doesn't buy co-workers gifts to cut down on costs. If she does receive one, she will go out and buy something for that person. She said communicating about gift exchanging earlier would avoid this. Another way to save is to find the best deals.

In recent years, many have found those by cybershopping.

Traci Brewer, foundation manager for the Phoenix Better Business Bureau, says although Internet shopping offers a convenient way to purchase holiday gifts, people should be cautious when doing so. Issues like determining the browser's and vendor's level of security are important. "Unsecured information sent over the Internet can be intercepted," Brewer says. "If you're not comfortable entering your credit card number online, call it in to the company's 800 number or fax it." Another tip: Make sure you find out the company's physical location, including the address and phone number. Brewer adds that placing a call to the phone number to verify information is a wise idea. For more tips on online shopping, visit www.bbb.org/library/shoponline.asp.

Ethel Taylor, 45, uses her love for shopping to buy Christmas gifts all year round.

"A little here and there I get serious about this time (of year)," the Phoenix resident says.

Taylor says she makes lists of whom she'll buy for and how much she will spend on each early in the year.

For some, like family members, she knows she will buy jewelry, so she will look for specials on those items. For others she will set price limits and stick to them. She also tries to stay away from using credit cards. "I don't like paying next year for what I bought this year," she says. Taylor's best advice: "Sales, sales, sales. Put away those credit cards deep in your drawers, and use cash when you can."