By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Have you already started making your lists and checking them twice?  Before you know it, the holidays will be upon us.  For some shoppers, the spirit of the season may lead to overspending and add up to a less-than-happy new year.

3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan has some advice for smarter holiday spending.

If credit card debt is already mounting, this holiday season leave the plastic alone.

“Maybe you can’t do what you really want to do during the holidays in terms of everything you want to give your kids or your friends, but if you stick with cash your situation at least won’t get any worse,” said credit card expert Beverly Harzog.

Sticking to cash on hand requires a more disciplined approach and a budget. In addition to gifting family and friends, factor in others that are often overlooked, like tips for baby-sitters and hairdressers.

Harzog urges shoppers to be honest about that budget and don’t rely on potential money like a holiday bonus that may not materialize.

“Stick with what you know you have in your accounts at the moment, your current cash flow, and plan your budget around that. That way you won’t have any unpleasant surprises. The last thing you want is to be in the debt when 2014 rolls around,” said Harzog.

If a large purchase is going on a credit card, make a smart choice. Use a rewards card that will earn points, miles or cash back.

And resist being tempted by those deals that promise instant savings by opening a store credit card.  They tend to have higher interest rates, meaning you may still be paying for this year’s gifts, well into next year.

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