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By Shunte Jones

While many consumers dread the premature onslaught of Christmas carols and ads featuring sleds and snowmen, it’s never too soon to start planning your holiday travel and spending. The National Retail Federation expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. This data suggests that Americans will continue to shop, despite potential long term financial burdens and challenges.

As a Financial Advisor, I see it every season. Families sacrificing their entire annual savings account, neglecting end of year financial goals and much more. While splurging a bit is certainly understandable, planning ahead will help you save money in the long run.

Here are some tips to help you do just that:

1. Plan ahead if Traveling

Doing your homework before booking flights can save you a nice chunk of money. For example, try leaving the weekend or Monday before Thanksgiving and returning the Friday after turkey day. This year, the cheapest time to fly around Christmas is harder to predict because it falls on a Wednesday. 

2. Take Advantage of Traditions

Instead of buying gifts for every family member, use traditions like Secret Santa to exchange gifts. Things like these will go a long way towards cutting back on those holiday expenses.

3. Identify  Expenses

Our minds are constantly pulled in a million directions. There is so much to do and remember. Lists are a great way to stay on track. Even Santa uses them. Who hasn’t heard of his naughty and nice list?

4. Be Strategic

Make your own with holiday-related expenses. Include the trips you have to book, the new outfit you’re eyeing for the company party, even the gifts you need to buy for family and friends.

5. Set Aside Extra Cash

Ideally, you’ve started preparing for the year-end holiday expenses months ago. However, many people don’t plan this far in advance. If that sounds like you, don’t worry, start now! Any little bit will help. Who knows? Maybe this could become one of your New Year resolutions for 2014 — to start saving right away.

These are just a few ideas, but there are many more.

On the surface, some might seem to minor to have a major impact, but every bit counts and it’s never too soon to get in the habit of positive spending practices.

About Shunte Jones

At the age of 23, Shunte Jones became a partner at Wealth Development Strategies, one of the region’s leading financial advising firms. Since then, she has gone on to advise top names in the sports, entertainment, and business industries, helping them amass millions in wealth and sustainable cash flow.

In addition, Jones was crowned the 2011-2012 Miss Black Houston. In 2013, she won the title of Ms. Black Texas, a milestone she’d dreamed of since her childhood days in the Northeast Texas pageant circuit. 

Jones is available for interviews and contributor opportunities relating to: finances, investment trends, analyses and wisdom, business development, effective networking, leadership, and entrepreneurship.