Plan year-end spending now, including gifts & travel

Don't count on last-minute deals

(CNN) – Now that the calendar has flipped to November, holiday expenses like shopping and travel are on the minds of many consumers.

You may not be ready to get out and shop yet, but it is a good time to plan for end-of-year expenses, starting with a realistic idea of what you’ll be able to spend on gifts, and on holiday visits to family and friends.

Don’t overlook the little things. That can include meals at the airport during trips, postage for Christmas cards, holiday tipping, and even new clothes for holiday parties.

If you’ve been saving points or miles from frequent traveler programs or credit cards, consider how that haul could help trim holiday expenses. For the peak holiday travel season, those miles may not translate into free tickets, but see how you might cash them in for gift cards and other discounts.

Starting on a gift list early, also gives more time to comparison shop. Some retailers are rolling out their holiday sales earlier than black Friday.

Also, don’t count on last-minute deals. Shopping at the last minute can leave consumers under pressure as retailers try to clear shelves, and you may end up spending more.

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