Get a Plan and Stick with It

Article excerpt

For many, 2009 will be remembered as the year when they drastically reset their spending priorities due to job and investment woes, or the fear of more economic troubles ahead. That is not a particularly bad starting point for a spending season in which so many people get in over their heads. It is wise to approach the holiday shopping season with a plan that can keep debt at bay and your finances safe all year long.

Here are a few ideas from the Financial Planning Association, Denver, Colo.:

Give yourself the gift of financial analysis. Visit a financial adviser. This meeting should extend beyond holiday spending goals to setting targets for saving, investing, extinguishing debt, and financial goals for the future. You can examine your spending patterns and the emotional drivers behind your financial decisions--and come away with a whole new perspective on handling money.

Set a budget. Obviously, if you have credit card debt now, you do not want to elevate those numbers. Remember, your credit score depends more now than ever on how high your balances are. Start by setting a holiday spending number you will not exceed and make cash your first priority in paying for gifts and other goods.

Revamp your gift policy. Does everyone on your list over the age of 21 really need a present? In the end, children seem to enjoy their presents the most, so focus on them. …