Christmas Crunch series: Part 2

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The official kickoff of the holidays is almost here. The season is a major money maker for retailers. According to financial analysts, retailers bank on making 30% of their annual sales during the month of December alone.

"Going into the holidays without a plan is one of the most dangerous things that somebody could do financially," says Community Bank Vice President Brandon Pratt. He says it's important to have a clear budget for the holidays.

"I would go so far as to say that if you can't cover your holiday spending in 3 or 4 months time, then it's time to cut back," says Pratt.

Cutting back is something that Janet Berg and her family have learned to do year round.

"It is tough some days,"says Berg. "It's a challenge. Yes.'

More than ten years ago Janet started putting into practice tips from financial guru, Dave Ramsey. Since starting, she says she and her husband's efforts are reaping rewards.

"The one year we had when we did not have debt, it was just freedom," says Berg.

By sometimes couponing, shopping sales and just cutting back in general, the only debt the Berg family has right now is a mortgage. If things go as planned, that'll be paid off ahead of schedule next year.

As for getting the most bang for you buck, both Pratt and Berg say using common sense is key.

"Everybody wants that bigger flat screen TV for the family, but is it really worth eating cereal for the first three months of next year? It's that kind of debate that you have to have," says Pratt.

"Don't go into debt for one day giving gifts and then spend the next few months paying it off," says Berg.

Here are some other tips from Community Bank for managing holiday spending:

1. Use cash.

2. Have a strategy when shopping sales by making practical purchases.

3. Start planning for next year now by saving money from each paycheck in a special Christmas account.