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Amid the hustle and bustle of sprucing up holiday decor, shopping for gifts and flitting about like a social butterfly at holiday parties, it's easy to lose track of how much money we really spend during the holiday season. Frugality is a way of life for me, and I'd like to honor all my hard work by not blowing my budget during the last month of the year!

Staying aware of budgets and spending can be just like keeping up with weekly sales at the supermarket. I rely on an extreme-couponer mind-set to resist impulse buying… which is difficult for me this time of year because let's face it, there is some super cute stuff everywhere you turn! I want to truly enjoy this giving season without over-spending.

Here are a Few Tricks to Track Spending During the Holidays:

Keep All Receipts in One Place. Find a place to keep ALL gift receipts. I personally prefer to keep my receipts in an envelope in my purse. I put the receipt in the envelope as soon as the cashier gives it to me; that way I am less likely to lose it. Keeping receipts is also helpful in the event I need to return something. For online purchases, I organize the confirmation emails in a file together for easy access, if I can't spare a moment to print them.

Combine Gift List with a Budget/Spending Record. Combining my gift list with budgets and actual spending in one spreadsheet really keeps me on track. Since I keep all of my holiday shopping receipts in one convenient place, it's easy to update it often. Once it has been created, it only takes a few minutes to plug in the numbers. A spreadsheet can contain columns like these:

  • Names of people on your gift list
  • Budgets for each individual
  • Details of items purchased
  • Actual cost of items purchased
  • Adjusted budget
  • Total spending to date
  • Rebates and/or Rewards (rewards earned through loyalty programs, mail-in rebates or online programs like shop at home)

Stay Updated. Consistently updating my records keeps me on the ball! When I make an online purchase, to save time, I usually plug the numbers into my spreadsheet as soon as I get the confirmation email. The stress of the holidays causes me to easily become forgetful, so I always keep my spreadsheet with me. (It can be handy to have it on a mobile device.) So if I'm out bargain hunting and I discover an unexpected deal on something that "Sally" would just love, I can know whether to buy it or pass, because I can see exactly what I have left in the budget for her.

During the busiest season of all, I find it crucial to track my spending so I don't start off the new year scratching my head, wondering where all that money went! Even as I continue to reap the rewards of my savvy saving skills, I will be saving my receipts and tracking every dime spent along the way. With all the information I need to keep me aware of my budgets and spending handy, I can avoid impulsive last-minute purchases. By following these few easy steps, I hope to ring in the New Year with a fat wallet and my sanity intact, and I wish the same for you!

This has been a guest post by Kimberly from Maricopa, AZ
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