Five tips for staying on budget and keeping the holidays jolly

(BPT) - If you’re one of those savvy consumers already strategizing how to best fund gifts and other expenses this holiday season, you’re not alone. Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults who give holiday presents establish a budget for these purchases, according to a recent Coinstar survey. Yet 85 percent admit they still tend to go over budget when it comes to gift buying, entertainment, travel, decorating and other holiday expenses.

Fortunately, planning ahead can reduce the risk of overspending. Consider how implementing the following ideas can help you stay on task and on budget when it comes to this year’s holiday expenses.

1. Estimate all of your anticipated holiday expenses, not just gift purchases. Consider costs for decorations, food/alcohol, travel and special events to gain a realistic idea of your projected cash output. If the total is out of reach, consciously decide where to cut back so you’re less likely to spend impulsively. You may have to acknowledge that you’re not able to host a lavish party or buy generous presents for everyone on your list.

2. Reduce your stress by starting your shopping early and taking advantage of sales throughout the year. These strategies will help spread your costs so they don't all hit at once and reduce your overall holiday spending budget. A full one-third of U.S. adults shop throughout the year, according to Coinstar's survey, and 27 percent buy the majority of their presents on sale. Only 14 percent are last-minute shoppers. Looking for bargains and unique gift items at stores, at special events and on websites can even be fun when you're not in a panic.

3. Think of ways to boost your spending power. One method is turning to the spare change you’ve stashed away in a coin jar, in vehicles and around your home. It's easy to take your change to one of about 20,000 Coinstar kiosks located at grocery stores throughout the country. For many, that’s found money that can be converted into cash or transformed (at no fee) into e-gift cards from popular vendors such as Amazon, Best Buy, Sephora, Lowe’s and Starbucks.

4. Draw names and set gift spending limits for family gift exchanges. As families grow through marriage or children added to the brood, it's easy to allow spending and gift giving to get out of control. White elephant exchanges can be great for the kids in the family. Have them gift one of their toys or possessions to another child in the family. That will not only be softer on the wallet, but will teach them the power of gifting and reusing.

5. Consider gifts big on thoughtfulness and small in cost. Perhaps a handcrafted work of art, homemade baked goods or a meaningful service such as childcare would mean more to some recipients than a store-bought knickknack, electronic gadget or sweater.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself if you go over budget despite your best efforts. You can always make up for it by cutting expenses outside the holiday season when you may face less temptation and pressure to buy.

For more information on how Coinstar works, visit www.coinstar.com.

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