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How to spend responsibly during the holiday gift-giving period

It's the holiday season, the time of year that many Americans and immigrants to the country show their love for others by gift giving or offering to send money so that their families can purchase something that they'll enjoy. All too often, though, this kind of spending can get out of hand. In fact, in consumers' desire to please the individuals for whom they care the most, it's not unusual for them to go into serious debt during the holiday rush.

However, consumers can guard against this if they go into their gift and money giving excursions armed with a sound financial plan that will enable them to be generous but at the same time responsible. The following tips from financial experts should help.

While December 25 may be less than two weeks away, financial experts say that the earlier people shop, the better off they'll be money-wise. As a general rule, retailers try to lure consumers into their stores and on to their websites early by offering deep discounts. And the more days there are between now and Christmas, the more likely it is that consumers will be able to find a price for a product that's less expensive than what another retailer is selling it for.

Something else that's important to do is to establish a budget. Before checking items off of a spouse, friend or child's wish list, consumers should allocate a specific amount of money they intend to spend. Once this number has been established, financial experts caution consumers to abide by it as closely as possible. Otherwise, it becomes easy to splurge on a purchase, which may ultimately lead to justifying spending an extravagant amount on other items.

While spending using a credit card may be easy and convenient, financial experts indicate that this is often a recipe for disaster, as there's greater wiggle room to go overboard. Paying with paper bills is preferable because buyers have a specific amount of money they can spend rather than a credit limit, which is usually in the thousands of dollars.

Another factor to take into consideration is what a loved one is asking for. While they may want a specific item, it's possible that what they're asking for is something that will ultimately wind up gathering dust rather than being put to use. Before purchasing a gift, consider the person who's asking for it and how frequently they've used presents in previous years. It may be in buyers' best interest to buy something that they think they'll enjoy more, which ultimately could be less expensive.

Gift of service may be best of them all
Then there are gifts to give that don't have a price tag. Financial experts say that the giving of one's time can be some of the best Christmas gifts, not only for the giver's wallet but for the receiver's value as well. Offering a week's worth of babysitting, cooking dinner or doing the laundry serve as a few service-oriented gift ideas.

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