6 Simple Ways To Avoid Playing Trick-Or-Treat With Your Budget (& Get Ahead Of Holiday Spending)

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couple shopping, looking at budget on phone

Yes, it’s that time of year again: the Holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day ... it all comes fast and furious. It's a time of joy and remembrance, a time for family and friends, a time for giving and receiving — and spending.

It's certainly a time to be more mindful of your money. The potential for a huge financial hangover in January is very real.

It gives rise to the specter of money-related holiday stress, and who needs that? After all, the holidays are stressful enough without additional concerns related to debt.

Planning your budget for holiday spending ahead of time can make a big difference. 

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Remember your budget during the holidays

Oh, the holidays can be magical. Who doesn't love costumes, lawn Santas, falling leaves, Christmas lights and mistletoe?

You are a self-proclaimed "child at heart" when Halloween pop-up stores re-emerge in August and "family size" candy is now three pounds, not two.

Do you start thinking about Halloween in August and get a slight on your face thinking about how cute your 7-year-old looked in her Annie costume? 

It’s a tricky time to be thinking about treats. It’s no doubt the candy is as big an allure for adults, as it is for kids. I remember that growing up, candy corn was my weakness, but it only came out at the end of September and had given way to pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce by early November.

The scarcity mentality certainly affected my purchasing. I stockpiled bags of candy corn, enough to see me through January. I would have made a good pioneer.

But there is more way than one to be smart about holiday spending — and savvy moves early in the season can save you a lot of heartache in the new year. (Not to mention help you avoid potential unrest over finances at home.)

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6 holiday savings tips can help you spend less money during the holidays 

1. Take a step back and consider the holiday season as one entity

Rather than take a piecemeal approach to each of the special days, think of the entire block of weeks as one unit. How much have you budgeted to spend during that time period? How much can you afford to run over budget during that time period?

2. Factor in meals

You'd have to eat anyway, holidays or not. So, wrap your holiday food budget into your typical weekly grocery and eating-out budget.

3. Set the kids a spending limit (especially on Halloween candy)

It's the Halloween candy dance. Assign $10 to each child to purchase candy for trick-or-treaters. This is a teaching moment. For example, the value of volume purchases. Maybe your youngest son reaches for the pack of six lollipops, and you get to explain to him that the bag of caramels holds 50 pieces — and is a better bargain.

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4. Let the family know there's a limit

Inform your children things will be different this year, and that you are cutting back. Instead of allowing the children to reach in and take fistfuls of caramels, you will pass two out yourself.

5. Compare and contrast spending from past holiday periods

You should take out last year’s receipts or your credit card statements and see what you spent — and reduce it, if possible. 

A good rule of thumb: Reduce it by 40 percent if you and/or your partner are working, and by 70 percent if only one of you is working.

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6. Save your decorations for next year

Recycle those baubles and bells. Think about getting a reusable, plastic pumpkin … or plan on carving together one big pumpkin, not several. If you celebrate Christmas, consider using an artificial tree rather than a live one. Part of holiday fun is reliving memories, and recycled decorations kindle those warm thoughts from the past.

The bottom line: Reduce your financial stress by changing your behavior during the holidays. 

If you have children and a large family, behavior shifts are even more challenging but doable — if you are serious about cutting back.

RELATED: How To Manage Your Kids’ Holiday Season Expectations This Year

Pegi Burdick is a certified financial coach specializing in helping women and men turn around their stress and shame about money and get back control of their lives. To learn more, visit her website.