Dave Ramsey advises how to plan for spending for Christmas.

Dear Dave: My wife and I are trying to improve our finances by living on a budget and following your plan. We’re in the middle of Baby Step 2, so we’re working to pay off everything but our house using the debt snowball. We only bring home about $40,000 a year combined right now, so how should we handle Christmas budgeting in the middle of working our debt snowball?

— Scot

Dear Scot: Working to get out of debt can cause stress within a relationship. That stress is sometimes magnified if you’re serious about getting out of debt during the holidays. I’m glad you two are on the same page where your finances are concerned. The fact that you’re committed to becoming debt-free as a couple will go a long way toward ensuring a merrier Christmas.

Just sit down together, have a look at your budget, and ask what she thinks is a reasonable amount to spend on gifts and things while you’re trying to get out of debt. If you think her suggestion is a manageable figure, just give her a hug, tell her you agree, and move on. If you’ve been trying to get out of debt for a while, you might even propose using last year’s Christmas budget.

The important thing is to make sure you listen to each other, and approach this together. On the off chance one of you wants to spend what the other considers to be too much, talk about how and why you arrived at that figure. Then, using your budget as a guide, gently and lovingly talk things out.

Honestly, I don’t think you’re going have problems if you’ve already been working together to get your finances in order. And remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make people happy. Delicious homemade treats and thoughtful, handcrafted gifts can put a smile on anyone’s face.

Merry Christmas!

— Dave

5 gotchas to budget for this holiday season

One of the biggest problems with Christmas is how it moves around on the schedule every year. You never know when it's going to be, when it might be coming, and then BOOM! There it is at your front door saying, "Hey, I'm Christmas. Buy stuff!"

But, wait a minute … Christmas is on the same day every year! Dec. 25. Who knew?

Somehow, too many of us are caught off guard year after year by Christmas. You already know you need to save throughout the year for holiday festivities. But we all have little things that, no matter what, sneak up on us.

Here's a list of "gotcha" items to include in your holiday budget:

• Stamps: Uncle Billy is waiting on his Christmas card. Unless you plan on driving to Toledo to deliver it in person, you're going to need a stamp — plus about 30 more for the rest of your family and friends. Even though they're inexpensive individually, the cost can add up quickly.

• Wrapping paper: A pair of velvet slippers in a brown bag just doesn't have the same effect. You can do so much better than that! Go the extra foot and buy some nice Christmas wrapping paper. While you're at it, go ahead and include some extra cash so you can buy it on sale the day after Christmas so it's waiting for you next year.

• Parties: There's your work party, your wife's work party, your kid's school party, your church party, the neighborhood party. …

During the holiday season, you probably need a project manager just to keep track of all the events. And whether you're bringing cookies, decorations, drinks or gifts, you'll still need to plan ahead.

• Travel: Going to see the parents? The in-laws? Maybe you're taking a vacation that doesn't involve awkward dinner conversations. If you're traveling this holiday season, don't forget about gas, snacks, hotels, checked baggage fees, rental cars and anything else you might need to get around.

• Food: You can't possibly forget to budget for food, can you? Let's hope not. But while you might not forget the bread, milk and cereal, you also need to think about the seasonal food you’ll be buying, like egg nog, ham, turkey and fruit cake.

It's time to make a vow. Let's promise ourselves we won't wait until the last minute to take care of the stuff we know is coming. Keep these things in mind while you're out shopping this holiday season!

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