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It’s so tempting to shop during the holidays, you are bombarded by media: radio, tv ads, the Internet, even friends. There are sales, events and specials everywhere. The holiday’s are upon us and in much of the country it’s cold and the weather isn’t cooperating, tempting you to go to the mall. DON’T! I’m always barking about  the psychology of shopping. This is the time of year that marketing goes into full force. It’s safer to stay away. Here are some alternatives to mall mania.

1. Go to the library. Head straight for the self-help or finance section and look for books that will help save you money. I recommend these. (Your money or your life; Don’t sweat the small stuff; Tightwad Gazette)

2. Clean your house. Whether you have company coming or not, cleaning up will make you feel good about what you have and less likely to want more. Clear the Clutter

3. Take care of those small details. Little things bother us but we don’t realize how much. I was always annoyed that I couldn’t find the cordless phone.  The base would ring and all of the handsets were dead or missing. I finally put an old-fashioned wall phone in the kitchen. Now, when the phone rings at least I can answer it. If something is broken, get it fixed or get rid of it. I don’t really need a clock in my office. I have a computer, a watch and my cell phone. Broken clock = gone.

4. Clean up your email, address book or do some computer maintenance or other task you’ve been putting off. Perhaps that half finished craft needs to be done, or pile of Christmas cards.

5. Phone or visit a relative or friend. This could be a nice thing to do for someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, a friend who is ill or an older relative who you would love to hear from you.

6. Get out – anywhere but the mall. If you have nice weather, take a walk, a hike, a picnic or other activity. If the weather is bad, get a group together and do something fun. Bowling and ice skating rinks can be relatively cheap if you have a group. Or just invite a friend to a local independent coffee shop.

7. Do something selfless. Pick a local charity or church group and volunteer. This time of year they need more help than ever. Food banks and other services are swamped. Offer to babysit for a busy mom or do some chores for an elderly neighbor. You’ll feel good about helping others.

8. File that pile of paper you’ve been avoiding and start getting your financial info together for next year. It’s close enough to the end of the year to organize and get ready for your taxes. If you have most of it together, you will be less stressed come tax time. Now is also a good time to start your budget for next year. Review your spending and see where your budget needs revising. Don’t have a budget? You already have most of the year’s receipts, credit card bills etc, so start on the road to living within your means.

9. Try some new recipes. See what you have in your pantry, then come up with new ways to make frugal meals. Need help? Check recipe sites on-line. Avoid the ones with exotic ingredients. Or, you could just organize the pantry or fridge. Clean out the freezer and get ready for the holidays.

10. Take a break. Take a nap, do some yoga, meditate or just read a good book. Find something a bid self-indulgent. Try a home-made facial recipe. There are plenty of recipes on-line with things you already have at home.

If you absolutely have to shop, go online. Look for coupon codes and discounts. You shouldn’t pay anything for shipping this time of year. Make your list, figure out your budget and decide where you are going to shop. Find you must go to the store? Take one day, preferably not the weekend if you can manage and choose one store. Go to the thrift store, local boutiques or discount department store (ie marshalls or tjmax) and get all your shopping done there. Or, choose a local craft fair. Whatever you don’t find at that store, on your list, go home and do the same on-line. Choose a site like Amazon and order whatever gifts you need to. Make sure you stay in your budget and set a time limit.

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