By Darryl Budge

Family Finance

Christmas can be debt-free


debt free

1. Begin saving early. The more you prepare for Christmas purchases by simply saving up cash the more likely you are to stay out of debt. You can't run from the hit to your wallet (unless your family and friends like homemade gifts), so you might as well save up for it.

2. Create a budget. Make a list of people you will buy a gift for, perhaps using a spreadsheet on LibreOffice Calc (free for all operating systems), Microsoft Excel, or Numbers on a Mac. For mobile devices, try WPS Mobile Office, Google Quickoffice or Google Drive. Specify a figure on what you will spend on each person and type the following SUM operation in the cell for the total figure: "=SUM(B2:B10)" where B2 and B10 are the cell co-ordinates for the first and final gift.

3. Stay within your budget. Vigilantly stick to the maximum figure you allotted to each gift. Spending more than you can afford is not being truthful and hurts you more than anyone else. Instead of keeping up with the Jones', remember that most people would prefer that you give cheerfully from your heart, not under the compulsion of guilt.

4. Be creative. An expensive gift can often be bested by a creative, thoughtful gift that meets the unique needs or desires of someone. The more you know someone, or ask those who know them best, the better your gift buying can be. Listen to what they talk about and clue in on their interests.

5. Shop online. Stores based on the web have reduced prices because you cannot try before you buy and have lower overheads than physical stores. Try out products in a store, then shop online for the best price. Many major physical stories will price beat or match online prices of their major competitors.

6. Start shopping early. If you prepare your budget and gift ideas early in the year then it is more likely that you will find an unusual and needed gift and be able to buy it during mid-year and post-Christmas sales.

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