By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Have you made your holiday shopping list yet? For most of us, the answer is no. But as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan explains, taking some budgeting steps now can help you avoid starting the new year with an ugly debt hangover.

With the economy being a big concern for retailers, many anticipate consumers will be approaching the holiday shopping season with some restraint.

A Consumer Reports poll finds shoppers have some habits to break from last year where consumers ACTUAL spending was 22 percent higher than their INTENDED spending. 45 percent of shoppers had set a budget, but blew through it! While six percent of people were still paying off last year’s holiday bills as of this October, that’s 14 million Americans.

Beverly Harzog of recommends that shoppers chart a spending course early and check periodically to make sure you’re still on track. She says, “Decide what your number is, how much you’re going to spend on each person, and then stick to it.”

A discount bonus for opening a store credit card might seem like a good way to trim costs, but may cost you later. According to Harzog, “In almost all cases that’s a bad idea. And the reason is because the interest rates on most of these cards are almost always very high.”

If you’re going to use plastic try to use a card that works for you. Harzog says, “Another tip while you’re out there is to use some sort of cash back or rewards points credit care so you end up saving just a little bit of cash while you’re out there spending.”

If you want to know where you stand before you spend, give yourself the gift of a credit report for you go shopping. It can be a true reality check that you might need.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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