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How you can help avoid going into holiday debt

Many people enter the holiday season determined not to overspend. However, retailers know how to break down consumer resistance. Soon, we've gone over our budget for Christmas presents. Add the cost of decorations, a holiday party ensemble or two, entertainment expenses and many people start the new year with dwindling bank accounts and serious credit card debt.

If you get started planning and strategizing early and maintain some discipline throughout the holidays, you can break this cycle. Following are some things you can begin doing immediately:

-- Determine how much you can afford to spend over the holidays. This includes all added holiday expenses -- not just gifts. If you're already tracking your income and expenses, you're ahead of the game. If you don't, this is a good time to start. Don't put it off as a New Year's resolution.

-- If your current income won't cut it, consider taking on temporary or freelance work to make extra money. Some companies even pay people to participate in online surveys.

-- Determine what expenses you can cut. Take a hard look at your monthly household expenses. Determine where you can save some money. Maybe you don't need a cable plan that offers 400 channels or you can forego that daily Starbucks.

-- Make your gift list early, determining how much you can afford to spend, and start looking out for good deals. There are price compare websites to help you avoid overpaying unnecessarily.

-- Spread out your holiday spending over the next couple of months. The good news is that stores start selling decorations and wrapping paper early. By buying gifts and other holiday items over multiple pay periods, you avoid not having the money when you need it or ending up with massive credit card bills in January.

-- Use credit card alerts. Many people do better maintaining a budget if they forgo the credit cards for a while and use only cash. However, if you use your cards, you can set up alerts with the issuers to be notified when you're above a specified balance of your choice.

As you take stock of your financial situation, if you realize that your debt is overwhelming, you may want to discuss your legal options with an Arizona bankruptcy attorney.

Source: GO Banking Rates, "Steps to Take Now to Avoid Holiday Overspending," Cameron Huddleston, Oct. 06, 2016

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