Every holiday season you vow to spend less, but year after year you have the same sick feeling when your credit card bills arrive in January.

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Here’s how to avoid a holiday spending hangover.

  • Take a reality check. Your heart may be bigger than your wallet. Assess how much you have to spend on everything — gifts, special meals, decorations, travel. Once you know how much you can allocate to each person and category, make your list.
  • Get going. “Shop as soon as the budget is in hand. Keep a copy with you so when you see the right item at the right price you can purchase it,” says Kevin Gallegos, a vice president with the Freedom Financial Network in Phoenix. Use cash only, and limit the amount you take with you.
  • Fill the gap. You know you should have been saving all year long for the holidays, but what’s done is done. If you need more money, there’s still time for Plan B: hustle. Work a retail job part-time, 12 hours a week at $10 an hour — that’s almost $500 a month. House or pet sit, sell stuff on eBay, get creative. Credit cards are not an option.
  • Show your love — but find ways to do it that cost nothing. Your time and skills are free. If you belong on Top Chef, maybe as a “gift” your best friend buys all the ingredients and you cook dinner for her family. Do it up so they feel like they’re eating at a restaurant.