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Money Fix: Keeping holiday spending in check

A holiday shopper counts his money as he

A holiday shopper counts his money as he prepares to pay for merchandise on Nov. 28, 2013 in Peoria, Ill. Advisers tell shoppers to mind their budgets for holiday buying. Photo Credit: Bloomberg News / Daniel Acker

It's the time of year when it gets a little crazy -- the parties, the presents, and spending like you won't have to pay the bills in January.

"It's tempting to give in to impulse purchases -- don't take the bait," says Mayra DiRico, director of retail banking at Astoria Bank in Lake Success.

Here's how to survive the holidays with your finances intact.

Be realistic: Take stock of where you are before you shop. "I see it all the time, folks fully aware they're in debt up to where they hang the mistletoe, and yet, not wanting to disappoint family and friends, overindulge in giving gifts," says Manhattan bankruptcy attorney William Waldner.

Determine what you can afford to spend. Be honest with loved ones about your budget. "It will relieve the pressure to overspend," says DiRico.

Strategize: Make a list and stick to it. Research prices online. "Avoid last-minute shopping and buying at any cost just to check the item off your list. Shop at lunchtime to spend less time in the stores," says Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

Use your rewards points to buy gifts. But don't use credit cards to earn more points. Go cash only.

Use layaway: If your item goes on sale, stores often will give you the sale price.

Buck tradition: Contribute to a charity on behalf of your loved one, make a gift, or offer your presence -- baby-sit, run errands or otherwise help out. Says Adelphi University professor Rakesh Gupta, "There are many thoughtful gestures that are appreciated; be creative."

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