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Budgeting during the holiday season

This article is Sponsored by Arizona Central Credit Union

This holiday season may look different from years past, and the good news is some changes may be for the better.

For example, many businesses are doing a twist on traditional Black Friday shopping by offering multiple and extended sales throughout the month in person and online, so you have time to plan your shopping strategy and your spending — which could include reining back impulse buys.

As you work out what you should buy, what you should skip, and how much to save, here are some tips for navigating this holiday season without breaking the bank.

Set a spending limit

It’s a good idea to know how much you’re willing to spend both overall and on individual items before adding anything to your cart online or in stores. If you’re good at organizing, create a spreadsheet with a list of people you’re buying gifts for, how much you want to spend on each, and a total dollar amount you cannot exceed.

If you need a little organizational help, take advantage of free apps like Santa’s Bag for iOS or Christmas Gift List for Android. Both apps help you with your shopping list and budget, so you stay on track.

Start saving now

It’s never too late to start saving, and every little bit helps. Set aside some money from every paycheck for holiday expenses with an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account.

“You can grow your savings while you sleep (literally),” Arizona Central Credit Union says. “Set it and forget it!”

After the holiday season, leave automatic transfers in place, so you can start saving for next year.

Research with purpose

In addition to planning your budget, you should know what you are going to buy for every person on your list before shopping to avoid impulse buys that can quickly add up.

If you’re interested in looking at doorbuster sales, compare advertisements for specific items you want. If you see another item of interest, you can certainly make note of it — just keep in mind that every time you add an item, something else needs to go.

With sales lasting days or weeks rather than hours this holiday season, take advantage of the time by going in well prepared.

Set gift expectations

The season shouldn’t be ruined by financial stress, so set expectations ahead of time with family and friends, so you don’t feel pressured to overdo it.

Many people feel financial strain around the holidays, so a frank conversation may provide relief for others as well. You can agree to skip gifts this year, create something homemade, or set a price limit.

Additionally, don’t feel guilty about cutting out gifts for acquaintances. The neighbors may not even notice or may appreciate not having to add yet another treat to the pile.

Use a personal finance tool

When you need help trimming your budget or understanding where your money goes, Arizona Central Credit Union can help. Members get access to a free personal finance management tool that offers insights into spending habits.

“Take control of your finances with our free budgeting software built into eBRANCH to help you automatically categorize your expenses, allowing you to get a complete picture of your spending in just minutes,” Arizona Central Credit Union says.

You’ll also be alerted about any unusual spending.

For more information on how you can set up automatic transfers, use personal finance management tools, and benefit from other account offerings, visit azcentralcu.org.