Save holiday money through planning

HOUSTON Eyewitness News has some creative ideas to help you plan now and save later.

"I am a last minute shopper," consumer Kenya Martin said. "I really don't set a budget. I just kind of go with it."

It's a mistake most of make -- one that ends up costing us alot more than it should. Marjory Nigro has always waited until the last minute to shop but not this year.

"I think everybody has to have their list ready and, by Thanksgiving, you need to have your priorities straight," Nigro said. "The last-minute shopping is always more expensive."

So how do you adopt better holiday shopping habits? Financial columnist Shannon Buggs said that one of the first things you must do is shop with cash.

"This is the really year if there ever was one to pay in cash so that you can keep track of spending," she said. "So you don't allow it to carry too far into 2010."

Secondly, Buggs said shoppers should start now. Because of weak retail numbers, most stores are running big sales -- the kind of sales we normally don't see until after Christmas.

"Hit the sales now," shopper Lisa Clapp said. "If you hit them now, you just stick them away until Christmas and then your shopping is done -- and you have saved some money along the way."

Another shopping tip is to look at non-traditional stores. Deep discount places like Family Dollar have huge toy sections with great gifts for $5 or $10.

Using available layaway plans will help consumers pay for presents as the season moves forward. It also allows customers to avoid using credit cards.

"You are going to put it aside and pay in installments with the cash that you have, not borrowing from a credit card," Buggs said.

Finally, Buggs said if you really want to save time and stick to a budget -- give cash.

"It's gives them freedom, it allows them to use the money however they need to use the money," she said.

This is the year to re-access how much and to whom you give gifts, because cutting back is on everybody's mind. A final tip: Get creative. Call up your friend and say, "Hey, this year let's come up with a $5 or $10 budget."

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