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Why not start this year’s (financial) resolutions on Dec. 1st?

While I hear from a few Scrooges every holiday season who can't quite get into the holiday spirit, there are also some holiday lovers who've indicated they would be okay with the cancelling of Christmas this year. Yes, times are that tough for some people.

Holidays can be very stressful, and a big part of that stress is the money. It's part of the reason so many people's New Year's resolutions are financial. The Christmas credit hangover is best fixed with stiff medicine in the form of cost cutting and paying down credit card balances.

But as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why not start your financial resolutions a month early on December 1st?

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If you've never budgeted before, a great time to start is with baby steps. Make a list of your upcoming expenses for the holidays: who you have to buy presents for, host and hostess gifts for holiday parties, secret Santa at work, the extra cost of hosting a family dinner, etc.

Now that you have an idea as to how much you will plan on spending, you have to find a way to pay for it. If there is no way to squirrel away the required funds, that's your first sign you have no control of your finances. If you are going to rely on credit, you can't afford it.

Instead of overspending in December and tightening the belt until Valentine's Day, when the cycle repeats, why not take it back a notch and focus on what the holidays are really about?

Another time-shifting exercise might be to see if your family is amenable to delaying gift giving by a week. If your gift list includes items that go on sale during Boxing Week, everyone can save some money.

Starting New Year's resolutions early and being late with gift giving might sound strange to some people. But if you're going deeper and deeper into the red and your solution is to keep doing what you've always done, trust me, I'm not the strange one.

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About the Author
Personal Finance columnist

Preet Banerjee is a consultant to the financial services industry. You can follow him on twitter at  @PreetBanerjee. You can find his conflict of interest disclosure on his website. More

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