Shopping for the holidays can be a hectic time. Begin early and be prepared for when December rolls around with the help of Southern Bank.

After the holiday rush, many of us suffer from sticker shock. From ingredients for holiday meals to seemingly endless gift lists, the costs can be staggering. Whether you dip into your savings or worse, rack up credit-card debt, the holiday season can really damage your finances. From switching up your banking practices to finding great deals, enjoy the holidays without going broke.

Create a Holiday Spending Budget

The first step is establishing a budget. A general guideline is to save two-to-five percent of your annual income for Christmas or Hanukkah spending. Don't forget to figure in costs besides gifts. Consider these added expenditures:

    Travel costs
    Gift wrap and accessories

Next, open a Christmas Club account. Figure out how many paychecks you'll receive between now and the holidays. Divide the amount you need to save by the number of paychecks you'll get, and deposit that amount each pay period. You'll receive a check in October for the balance of your Christmas Club savings.

Find Bargains without Losing Your Mind

Skip the Black Friday madness. Most stores offer online deals, so bypass the lines and shop at home. Also, keep your eyes peeled for bargains all year long by opting to receive promotional emails from retailers and discounters like Brad's Deals and Groupon. Watch for deals in unexpected places. Drugstores often have surprisingly chic stocking stuffers, for example. From stylish makeup bags and barrettes to best-selling novels and adult coloring books, drugstore chains let you save money on presents they'll love.

Earn Points for Shopping and Other Activities

Earn money for gift-shopping by signing up for point-earning programs. Register with Swagbucks, MyPoints, and other programs that pay you points for reading emails, watching videos, answering surveys, and making purchases from designated merchants. Cash out your points for gift cards or deposits to your PayPal account. Give the cards as gifts, or use them to buy presents. For programs offering PayPal payments, transfer the payments to your bank account to save for holiday purchases.

Prepare for the Holidays with Southern Bank

Building a substantial amount of savings for the holidays is easier than you might think. Open a Christmas Club account with a small outlay; Southern Bank requires a low $25 initial deposit. Start your holiday banking journey with the money you've saved at your local Southern Bank branch.

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