_Budget your spending: Start with a realistic idea of how much you can spend on holiday gifts, food, travel and other items. Tally it up and think hard about whether you can afford to spend that much. If the total figure makes you uneasy, think about areas in which you might cut back. Then stick to your budget.
_Make a list: Work from a list when you shop, to avoid impulse purchases that could leave you mired in debt at the end of the holiday season.
_Comparison shop: Fight the urge to get your shopping over with as quickly as possible and take some extra time to find the best deal.
_Reduce your interest payments: Now is a good time to look for lower interest rates on credit cards, because rates on some cards have declined more than others. Pay off account balances for holiday purchases as quickly as possible.
_Open a Christmas Club account in January: The accounts are offered by many banks and credit unions. Put some money into the account each month, based on how much you spent this year for the holidays, and arrange to have that amount automatically deducted from your paycheck. Earning interest on the account is better than making interest payments to finance next year's holiday shopping.