As part of this, Schrage says to review all monthly bills. "Many service providers, banks and credit card issuers have instituted a variety of new fees," he says. "Take a good hard look at all of your monthly bills to see if any of these have appeared. If so, call your provider to find out what you need to do to have them eliminated."
As you go through your budget and bills, Shrage says this is also a good time to create a sensible filing system for finances. It will make tax filing easier.
Marsh says people should plan their holiday spending before they shop. A new survey by CreditDonkey.com asked people if they planned to spend more or less on holiday shopping than they did last year. Of those who responded, 50.7 percent said they would spend less, while 31.5 percent said they would spend more. Marsh is skeptical.
"Every year people plan on paying less," he says. "By the end of the holidays, they end up paying more."
Marsh said people can spend less by planning now on what gifts they are going to buy. Thinking ahead means you can find presents more suited to the people on your gift list, Marsh says. He also said research by Stanford University showed people don't appreciate more expensive gifts, so people can spend 20 percent less and make an impact.
Planning ahead also gets rid of the last-minute expensive but less thoughtful present.
"You walk into a store and you don't know what to buy," Marsh says. "You haven't thought of anything in advance — you haven't incorporated all the creative things that will provide value for the gift without it having to cost a lot. If you don't know what you are going to get your wife the day before Christmas, what do you go buy her? You don't sit around and think, 'What would she like? What would she use?' You walk in and buy her jewelry. And it is the one thing that will be far more expensive."
Bell says it's easy to lose sight of spending habits in the holidays. "Parties, presents and travel expenses can really add up," he says. "But there are a lot of great ways out there to keep track of your expenses these days."
Townsend also says people need to avoid spending too much this time of year. "I strongly encourage people to set a budget now for what they want to spend during the holidays and really try to adhere to that," he says. "Deal with financial things financially and emotional things emotionally. That will help prevent things down the road."
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