Although it seems like Halloween was just yesterday, it's clear holiday shopping is already in full swing. Surveys say you're expected to spend big bucks—upwards of $800 on others and another $100 on yourself—this season. How do you make sure you don't go into debt doing it? Make a gift-buying plan before you hit the stores.
  1. Decide how much you—personally—can afford to spend this holiday season on gifts.
  2. List the names of everyone you'll be shopping for.
  3. Write down the dollar amount you'd like to spend on a gift next to each person's name.
  4. Estimate the cost of cards, wrapping and postage.
  5. Add it all up. If your expenses are already over budget, trim until you're in range.
Finally, use the Internet to get a good sense of what you can buy for each person. Only then should you actually go shopping.

And one last tip: If your budget is truly minimal for whatever reason, make a charitable contribution in honor of your friends and family. They'll get an acknowledgement of the gift from the charity but they don't have to know how much—or little—you gave.