Here, some basic tips to cut costs this holiday season without feeling like Scrooge.

The holidays are here... along with the high costs and expectations. We've got some basic tips to make the "season of giving" a memorable one without blowing the budget.

Make a list (and check it twice): It's good advice any time of year -- develop a budget and stick to it. Start by making a list of holiday expenses (like food, travel and gifts) so you can estimate your costs. Next, devise a plan to cover them -- preferably without going into debt. Put the plan in writing to keep spending -- and expectations! -- in check.

Set limits: Whom to buy for and how much to spend can be touchy subjects, but now is the time to have some frank conversations. Is it time to buy for the kids only, draw names out of a hat or go with a theme like "gag gifts"? Should you put a cap on spending, or have a "buy nothing" celebration? Chances are friends and family members are also feeling the pinch and may be more open to alternatives this year.

Plan early: Many people rely on credit cards to see them through the holidays, then end up compounding the problem with interest charges (pun intended). Rather than sacrificing in January, start cutting back on non-essentials now and put money aside for the holidays.

Pay cash: It's a great visual reminder to spend smart and avoid impulse buying. Some research shows that when we pay cash we often spend less and put more thought into decisions. If you're buying big ticket items, ask the store if they offer a discount for paying cash or debit. Some stores offer a modest discount to avoid paying fees to credit card companies.


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Elizabeth Rogers